NEW YORK - The typical U.S. consumer has been changing for a while, and new U.S. Census demographics seem to indicate that there is no "average" American consumer, Nation€™s Restaurant News reports. Demographic-trends analyst Peter Francese projects that the typical diner is no more.
He predicts that the 2010 U.S. Census will find an older, more diverse population increasingly grouped in multinational and vibrant regions. This will impact their eating out behavior and how restaurants should evolve to capture these new consumers.
"The way in which any restaurateur can keep up [with the changing American consumer] is to constantly be in touch with their customers €" their specific customers," he said. "I eat out a great deal, and I€™m always stunned by how seldom I get a questionnaire. Comment cards are absolutely essential, and if you can get e-mail addresses, you can query them back for demographics, but the key thing is to constantly be in touch with your customers to see how well the value proposition worked for them."
In addition to Francese€™s projections on customer evolution, Nation€™s Restaurant News asked U.S. operators about how customers are changing. "The most obvious behavioral change is that consumers want top-quality, fine-dining food in very informal and casual restaurants. They don€™t want white tablecloths and stiff service and are willing to give up dining in grand rooms in exchange for saving some money and having more fun while dining out," said Shelley Lindgren and Victoria Libin, co-owners of A16 and SPQR in San Francisco.
"The most surprising behavioral change is the way people are coming out -- at the last minute. Between eating at the bar and calling at the last minute for reservations on the weekends, the pattern of business is very different. It makes planning both from a supply and a staff point of view more challenging than it was before the recession," said Nancy Laird, owner of Restaurant Serenade in Chatham, N.J.