family dinner
Consumers are eating in instead of dining out, according to NPD Group.

CHICAGO – Getting consumers out of their homes and into foodservice establishments continues to challenge foodservice operators, according to a new report from The NPD Group, a leading global information firm. New data indicates lower gas prices have not led to growth in foodservice visits.

Foodservice spending climbed 3 percent in the year ending April 2015, but foodservice visits remained stubbornly flat. NPD reported that four out of five meals are prepared and eaten at home, and the trend is rising.

“It’s a battle for share within the foodservice industry and a battle for food dollars between in-home and away-from-home dining,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “In order to grow, foodservice manufacturers and operators need to have a clear understanding of consumer expectations and then they need to meet those expectations. If they don’t someone else will.”

Higher prices for food and rising operations costs are driving increased spending by foodservice operators. Also, dining out typically costs three times more than a meal at home, NPD noted. NPD estimated that in 2014, the average cost of a restaurant meal per person was $6.96 compared to an estimated per person average cost for an in-home prepared meal of $2.31.

Also, the US Census Bureau recently reported that foodservice spending exceeded grocery spending for the first time ever, but the research didn’t include spending at big box food retailers.

NPD said annual per-capita foodservice visits are at 190, down three visits per person per year from 2013; and traffic has been declining for the past several years.

The "Great Recession" prompted millennials to cut back dramatically their visits to and spending at restaurants, NPD explained. Adults, ages 25 to 34, who are more likely to have families, have cut back the most on restaurant visits at 50 fewer visits per person per year over the past several years.

Meanwhile, the youngest adults, ages 18 to 24, made 33 fewer visits per person per year in 2014 than they made in 2007, NPD reported.