What Consumers Say about Restaurants: Survey

Food plays a central role in outdoor and vacation activities in the summer time, and new research by the National Restaurant Association shows that: 

  • 35 percent of consumers say they will dine out and/or use restaurant takeout or delivery for a picnic, cookout or outdoor event this Labor Day weekend;
  • One in five consumers (20 percent) ordered restaurant takeout or delivery for an outdoor dining occasion during the summer months; and
  • 66 percent of consumers went on a summer vacation or trip during which they visited a restaurant.

“The fact that one in five have used restaurant services for their outdoor dining activities, and that two-thirds enjoyed restaurant meals on summer vacations speaks to the essential role the nation’s nearly one million restaurants play in Americans’ lifestyles,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association.

“The summer months are typically the most popular time of the year to dine out, due to travel and tourism and outdoor dining activities. Restaurants have served millions of guests over the last three months, both in their establishments and with takeout and delivery options for picnics and cookouts in backyards and parks across America.”

The National Restaurant Association’s new consumer survey also shows that:

  • 25 percent of consumers plan to dine at a restaurant over the Labor Day weekend;
  • 15 percent plan to order takeout or delivery from a restaurant for a cookout or picnic;
  • 5 percent plan to both dine out and order takeout;
  • Men were somewhat more likely than women to use restaurant services for Labor Day weekend; 40 percent versus 30 percent;
  • Middle-aged adults (45 to 54 years of age) are more likely than other age groups to dine at a restaurant to celebrate Labor Day (32 percent);
  • Younger adults (18 to 34 years of age) are more likely to use takeout or delivery for a picnic, cookout or other outdoor dining event for the holiday weekend (21 percent).

The survey asked consumers about using takeout or delivery from restaurants for outdoor dining events this summer, such as Memorial Day or Fourth of July. 

  • 20 percent said they supplemented their outdoor dining events with restaurant dishes;
  • Individuals in households with children were more likely to do so (26 percent), compared with adults in households without children (16 percent);
  • Younger adults were more likely to use restaurant takeout/delivery for picnics and cookouts; 23 percent of 18-to-34-year olds and 26 percent of 35-to-44-year olds, compared with roughly 15 percent of those 55 and older.

Consumers were also asked about which factor most influenced how they chose a restaurant for summer dining:

  • The majority (57 percent) said they selected an eatery based on food and service, just like at any other time of year;
  • 17 percent preferred to dine inside a restaurant to get out of the heat;
  • 12 percent sought out restaurants with summer specials and promotions (such as Restaurant Week, beach themes or happy hours);
  • 7 percent said they dined outside at restaurants as often as they could during the summer months.

The survey asked consumers about how they picked restaurants while on vacation. 

  • Sixty-six percent said they took a vacation or trip this summer and ate at restaurants while they traveled;
  • Of those, about one-quarter selected a restaurant that was convenient to where they were staying (24 percent);
  • Roughly one-fifth visited restaurants they hadn’t been to before (22 percent), and an equal percentage selected restaurants that were recommended to them;
  • One in five dined at one of their favorite restaurants (20 percent);
  • 12 percent opted for kid-friendly restaurants.

The National Restaurant Association surveyed 1,004 American adults August 25-27, 2011, about summer dining and their plans for Labor Day weekend. The survey findings were released Tuesday, August 30.

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is a leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 960,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of nearly 13 million employees.

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Rakesh Raman