CHICAGO – At the end of a long day when budget-conscious families must decide what’s for dinner, retailers are winning the battle vs. restaurants, according to a new survey from Chicago-based Technomic.

Retailers have an edge by offering ready-to-eat entrée options that are easily paired with sides, according to Technomic, a market research firm.

"It's true that the economic conditions of the past two years shifted a lot of business away from restaurants," says Ron Paul, president of Technomic, which that has extensively studied key players and developments in the Retailer Meal Solutions (RMS) segment.

"Many restaurants need to adjust the value equation back in their favor," Paul said. "Even though retailers are increasingly successful at matching the quality of restaurant food, some restaurant chains are aggressively challenging retailers on price."

Restaurants are getting the message. For example:

• Mimi's Cafe rolled out a Family Meals To Go menu with 10 meal options serving four to five people for $24.99. Each meal comes with a choice of soup or salad; additional family-size sides can be added for $3, $4 or $5.

• Bob Evans' 10 Under $20 Family Meals To Go include an entree, a large side and fresh-baked bread for three to four diners. The meals are only available for takeaway.

• Wienerschnitzel promoted several Family Combos for $9.99 for a limited time in May.

• In April, Buona Beef invited e-club members to try its new Family Meals for a special limited-time price of $13.95.