Applebee's and other casual dining restaurants are increasingly serving customers who would rather dine in their own home. / Applebee's Applebee's and other casual dining restaurants are increasingly serving customers who would rather dine in their own home. / Applebee's

Single People Are Driving an Increase in Restaurant Meals Eaten at Home

Single, affluent adults are boosting sales of restaurant meals eaten at home, according to data released by market research firm NPD Group.

Restaurant meals eaten at home comprised 32 percent of all restaurant traffic from September 2017 to September 2018, a two percent increase from the prior year, the NPD research showed. Adult, single person parties with an income of at least $100,000 contributed the most to the increase of restaurant meals eaten at home, and families and groups of five or more accounted for 31 percent of the category in the same time period.

Quick service restaurants account for 82 percent of all restaurant traffic in NPD’s calculation, followed by casual dining (9 percent) and midscale dining (8 percent). In NPD’s categorization, quick service restaurants also include retail foodservice locations that offer prepared food for takeaway, like grocery stores.

The Rise of Off-Premise Eating

At-home restaurant meals are generally facilitated through off-premise options like takeout and delivery, which are fast growing segments for the entire restaurant industry. Customers are increasingly demanding food through these off-premise channels, regardless of typical meal hours. Uber Eats told Skift Table that, in the past year, the company has seen a 149 percent increase in delivery orders made after 9 p.m.

Plenty of companies have been experimenting with how to best serve those off-premise customers. Outback Steakhouse parent company Bloomin’ Brands is currently testing a handful of Express locations that have no in-restaurant dining capabilities and only serve delivery and pickup customers. Restaurants are increasingly launching official partnerships with third-party delivery services to improve the off-premise customer experience. (Think integrated point-of-sale capabilities to cut down on delivery times and clean up the tablet clutter that so often congregates behind the counter.)

Chains are rolling out other off-premise eating options as well: Chick-fil-A started testing an at-home meal kit service in August. Customers could pick up the meal kits in participating restaurants (no subscription required) and the dinner price averaged $7.95 per serving.

“Home is where the heart is when it comes to U.S. consumers but they still look for the convenience that is offered by a ready-made restaurant meal,” David Portalatin, NPD’s food industry advisor, said in a statement.  “We don’t look for this trend to change anytime soon and operators and foodservice manufacturers can take advantage of the stay-at-home movement by offering at-home eaters with innovative ready-to-eat meal solutions and a greater degree of convenience.”

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