Across all restaurant types and price points, more people are eating out – Charleston Post Courier

Restaurant News

Google “people eating out more often,” and a litany of results appear, detailing the decline of home cooking and how Americans are frequenting restaurants more often. 

“Americans putting more of their budget toward eating out,” reads one CNBC headline.

But there’s also a sprinkling of stories purporting the opposite.

“From boomers to millennials, people aren’t eating out as much,” spouts a headline from NBC News. 

The industry experts Free Times spoke with suggest that the prior camp has it right. More people are eating out in lieu of cooking and, in turn, more dollars are getting spent at restaurants. The reasons could range from an increase in hotel patronage, a strong economy and more people in the workforce, offers Drew Martin, director of the University of South Carolina’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. 

“People come home from work and they just don’t have the time or the energy to cook for an hour,” Martin says. “There’s a need for more instant gratification.”

He points Free Times to a Feb. 27 report from the National Restaurant Association to further illustrate restaurant growth. That report details that restaurants sales will hit $899 billion in 2020, up 4 percent from the year prior, and, maybe most telling, it says that consumers have “pent-up demand for restaurants; nearly half of customers say they aren’t using restaurants as often as they’d like.”

Cheap(er) bites at four not so cheap restaurants

But the answer might be more simple. Martin hypothesizes that with low unemployment, workers are simply better able to go out to eat. 

“More people are working and going out could be a reward for those with more income,” he says.

In Columbia, Martin says he often sees busy restaurants with a wait for a table. This trend is likely to continue, or at least stay stable, for full-service restaurants, even if the economy takes a dip due to coronavirus fears or other issues, Martin speculates.

“The evidence to me suggests there are a lot of people eating out both at the high-end and the luxury restaurants, the full-service restaurants, I think that’s probably pretty constant,” he explains. “There’s a base regardless of how the economy is doing.” 

Restaurant operators recognize the growth in the industry, and see it happening across all price points, says Rox Pollard, vice president and director of the retail services team at Colliers International’s South Carolina branch. 

“That trend is unlikely to change, it’s a busier world,” Pollard offers. 

He suggests that the increase in restaurant patronage could be playing a role in restaurants emphasizing outdoor spaces or other differentiating factors. In turn, those spaces are good for fostering consistent customers. 

“More and more people in the population are eating out, they need more and more ways to attract people out,” Pollard concludes.  

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