I'm catching up on my summer reading and came across a passage titled Gas, indigestion and heartburn. It's from the National Retail Federation's survey of consumer habits vis a vis high gasoline prices. The survey was conducted last fall, when prices peaked, and published last month.
Forty-two percent of consumers surveyed who have an annual household income of less than $50,000 indicated they'll eat fewer meals at family-oriented chain restaurants because of gas prices. Households with incomes above $50,000 indicated a 33.3 percent decrease.
But a slowdown in spending at Applebee's and Olive Garden means more business for fast-food nation.
From the report, "Are Shoppers Running Out of Gas?":
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Casual restaurant chains could soon be feeling a bit queasy, as well. When gas prices were at their highest last fall, more than 4 in 10 consumers indicated their intentions to cut back on dining out; among lower-income shoppers, the figure eclipsed 45 percent. Slotted as they are between high-end restaurants and fast-food purveyors, chains like Applebee's, T.G.I. Friday's, Cracker Barrel and Olive Garden are particularly vulnerable. Since these family-oriented chains cater to low-to-middle-income consumers, they're likely to be disproportionately affected. But don't expect these consumers to become stay-at-home diners: look for them to rediscover the McDonald's, Wendy's and Hardee's of the nation.
As other surveys show, in 2005, more family food dollars were spent on food purchased outside rather than prepared in the home – an American first.