U.S. diners plan even fewer restaurant visits next year: survey

Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:33pm EST
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(Reuters) - U.S. diners, who have been cutting back on restaurant visits, plan to eat out even less frequently in 2014, according to a new survey from consultancy AlixPartners.

For the first time in the five years that AlixPartners has conducted the survey, participants said the No. 1 reason for dining out less was the desire to eat healthier.

That answer just edged out the need to trim personal spending.

Financial issues have been a perennial concern for diners, but the desire to eat healthier has been growing stronger each year, Adam Werner, an AlixPartners managing partner, told Reuters on Monday.

"It has always been near the top, but it's never been the top," Werner said.

Traffic to U.S. restaurants fell an estimated 1.5 percent to 2 percent during the first nine months of 2013, according to Malcolm Knapp, a restaurant consultant whose Knapp-Track service monitors sales and guest counts.

The top three criteria survey participants use when choosing to dine out are food quality (judged largely by taste and freshness), price and value.

Restaurants across the board have been trying to give consumers more healthy options, in part because diners often are willing to pay a bit more for such food.

Fast-food chain McDonald's Corp has been touting its "Favorites Under 400" menu, which highlights food options with fewer than 400 calories. Rival Burger King in September debuted lower-fat french fries called "Satisfries."   Continued...

A glass of tap water is served at a restaurant in New York June 10, 2009. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton