Many white-tablecloth, ultra-high-end restaurants didn’t survive the recession. Gone are the formal attire and menu items that break the bank. Today’s fine-dining segment is a hybrid of the white-tablecloth restaurant and the casual-dining spot, resulting in an upscale-casual dining experience.
Visits to fine-dining restaurants have rebounded from double-digit losses suffered during the recession, as the segment evolved to become more relevant to today’s consumer and deliver on value expectations, reveals a new report from NPD’s CREST foodservice market.
Unlike other segments within the foodservice industry, fine-dining restaurants have been able to recapture visits lost during the recession because they are delivering what consumers are looking for in dining experience, says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. Visits to fine-dining restaurants were up 5 percent in the year ending December 2013, compared to double-digit visit declines during the same period in 2008. The segment accounted for only 1 percent of 61 billion restaurant visits in 2013, but 14 percent of foodservice dollars spent.
“These consumers are looking for more than just a meal when they visit a restaurant,” Riggs says. “They are also looking for an experience.”
Even though diners are paying more than if they went to a casual-dining restaurant, they see themselves as getting good value, Riggs says. For most diners, these visits to fine-dining restaurants are because of a special occasion or date night.
These diners experience value in many ways, beginning with food that is made with fresh ingredients, is good tasting, and is delivered at reasonable and affordable prices, Riggs says. That experience is delivered in several ways, such as having a celebrity chef behind the concept and increased socializing within the restaurant, such as the presence of active bar with tasty bar food.
Upscale hotels are also helping to fuel the growth in the fine-dining segment. “There has been a transformation in that whole segment, as well, as many of the upscale hotels are no longer trying to run the fine-dining end themselves and instead [are] partnering with restaurant brands, who run the restaurant,” Briggs says.
The demographics driving the growth in the fine dine segment are the baby boomers and older diners. “They got hit [during the recession], but they still have the means to go to these concepts,” says Riggs. “They continue to work, and they are been known to favor high-end restaurants.”
Prior to the recession, Millennials were the heaviest restaurant users, but as a group they have cut back because they were hit particularly hard during the recession. Over a five-year period, they cut back on 50 visits per person, says Riggs. “They still go, but not as often.”
By Joann Whitcher
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