Bad News for Restaurants: Customers Don’t Want to Eat There

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In some parts of America, the restaurant business seems to be positively thriving, and it can be difficult to get a table even at some of the most expensive restaurants in the country — places whose fixed-price menus cost hundreds of dollars.

But a survey just conducted by the global consulting firm AlixPartners suggests that things might not look so rosy for the restaurant business as a whole. According to the study, 49% of respondents said that they plan to reallocate their savings to expenditures other than dining out, while 30% said that restaurant meals are too expensive. In addition, the number of people who plan to spend between $10 and $30 per meal is down slightly from last year, to 55% from 57%.

At the same time, 59% of consumers overall — and 68% of millenials — are in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour (many have joined the Fight For $15 movement), an increase that has the potential to raise restaurant prices further. (The federal minimum wage is currently less than half that, at $7.25 an hour, though some 19 states, 21 cities, and one county have implemented higher hourly minimums.)

Interestingly, discounts, coupons, and promotions don’t seem to interest diners as much as they used to: AlixPartners reports that only 38% of consumers plan to avail themselves of these offers this year, compared with 46% last year.

“The restaurant consumer today is jittery…,” said Adam Werner, a managing director of the consultancy firm. “The economy — which, of course, drives so much of restaurant spending to begin with — looks great in the rear-view mirror, but what lies ahead is uncertain….” Maybe even more restaurants will end up on a list of the saddest closing of the year.