According to Restaurant DemandTracker’s October survey of restaurant customers in the United States, the number of business-related meals is up from last year and average spending on those meals is up very substantially. This trend favors fine-dining restaurants, which are more likely to be visited for business meals, but also casual-dining restaurants that are appropriate for those occasions.
In October 2013, 11 percent of restaurant customers were reimbursed by their employer for at least one meal in the past week, compared to just 9 percent in October 2012. The average number of business-related meals per week among that group was 3.0 in October 2013, a slight decline compared to 3.3 in October 2012. However, the larger number of people ordering business meals more than offset the lower average number of meals per person, so the total number of business-related meals appears to be up slightly over this period.
Additionally, spending per business meal rose substantially over the same period. Average total spending on business meals was $55 per week in October 2013, vs. only $45 in October 2012. This translates to an average check per business meal of about $18.50 in October 2013 vs. $13.50 last year. A substantial portion of this improvement in check size was driven by a higher degree of trade-up to fine-dining among business-meal customers.
In October 2013, 42 percent of business-meal customers visited a fine-dining restaurant once a week or more (for any type of meal) vs. just 34 percent in October 2012. Over the same period, the number of business-meal customers who visited casual-dining restaurants once a week or more (for any reason) also increased, rising from 48 percent last year to 53 percent this year—albeit not as big an increase as seen for the fine-dining segment.
Restaurant customers with business-meals are far more likely to visit fine-dining restaurants once per week (42 percent) than customers with no business meals (5 percent). Restaurant customers with business-meals are also much more likely to visit casual-dining restaurants once per week or more (53 percent) than customers with no business meals (20 percent). This means the average weekly spending on restaurants by customers with business meals is about $122, compared to just $41 for those with no business meals.
“A higher-spending business-meal customer is a very welcome development for the high-end, but also the middle tier of the restaurant industry,” says David Decker, president of Consumer Edge Insight. “For fine-dining restaurants, one of their core customer segments is starting to visit restaurants more often and is more likely to be trading up to fine-dining than a year ago. While this is a smaller customer segment for most casual-dining restaurants in terms of traffic, the higher-average spending among this group makes them an important segment to understand and target as much as possible given your brand.”
Restaurant DemandTracker, a syndicated consumer-research service from Consumer Edge Insight, provides in-depth analysis each quarter of how key economic and secular factors impact restaurant demand, and which brands are best-positioned to succeed. Data for the most recent Restaurant DemandTracker was collected in October 2013 via an online survey of over 3,000 U.S. consumers, age 18 and over.