Study gauges dining out cutbacks

NEW YORK More than four out of 10 consumers are dining out less often than they did six months ago and almost as many are choosing less-expensive places when they do go out, according to a new research study by management consulting firm Booz & Co. The data also indicated that people are likely to cut back further on dining out if the economy fails to improve.

The report, based on a survey in late September of nearly 1,000 adults, also found that 35 percent of consumers now pack their own lunches during the week.

The survey also revealed that the public is cutting back on its out-of-home consumption of beverages, a source of sales growth for many chains in recent years. One-fifth of the respondents said they visited coffee chains less frequently than they did six months earlier, and 32 percent reported drinking alcoholic beverages more often at home, instead of going to restaurants or bars.

Two-thirds of the participants said they thought the economy would either worsen or remain the same over the next six months and that they would make deeper cuts in dining out and spending if their expectations are accurate. A 10-percent decrease in disposable income would prompt  62 percent of respondents to economize by dining out less often or trading down to less-expensive restaurants, the study found.

On the flipside, the respondents indicated that dining out would be the first area where they would increase their discretionary spending once the economy improves.