Feb 13 Penny-pinching U.S. diners plan to eat out more this year and spend less on each meal, according to a new forecast released by consulting firm AlixPartners on Wednesday.
Those intentions threaten to squeeze restaurant operators, who are grappling with rising costs for beef and other popular ingredients as they increase spending on advertising and special deals to stay ahead of rivals in a brutally competitive industry.
"There's going to be margin pressure, big time," said Adam Werner, co-leader of AlixPartners' restaurant practice.
Traffic to U.S. restaurants should rise about 3 percent in 2013. Expected average spending per meal should fall 4.7 percent to $12.85 as diners seek out coupons, discounts and other deals as a way to cope with the weak U.S. economic recovery.
Food quality is another top priority for diners, who are less interested in service than in previous years.
Those two trends are reflected in the popularity of chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc, which allows diners to choose ingredients such as organic produce and antibiotic-free meats for the burritos, tacos and other dishes that are assembled before their eyes.
Competition will remain intense as grocery stores and convenience stores expand sales of prepared food. The lines between fast-food and full-service restaurants also are blurring.
As a result, AlixPartners predicted that advertising will get even more targeted this year - with deals customized by geography or individual preference.
"As consumers get more demanding, and as the fight for share of stomach continues to increase, everyone is looking for a competitive edge," Eric Dzwonczyk, who also is co-leader of AlixPartners' restaurant practice.
Texas businessman Wyly strikes $198 million deal with SEC
NEW YORK, Oct 1 Texas businessman Sam Wyly has agreed to pay $198.1 million to resolve claims by U.S. securities regulators that he engaged in a long-running securities fraud to hide trades in companies he controlled using offshore trusts, according to a court filing.
BAE Systems to begin building new British nuclear submarines
LONDON, Oct 1 Britain's ministry of defence said on Saturday that construction work will begin on the country's new nuclear submarines, announcing nearly 1.3 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) of new investment with defence firm BAE Systems .