According to a new survey from PopMenu, an Atlanta-based platform that helps restaurants streamline digital operations, 40% of monthly individual or family food budgets are spent on restaurants.
"In the past, you wouldn't go to restaurants to save money, but now everyone understands that [restaurants] are so much better at making meals, they get better deals on the ingredients, and they're much more efficient," Brendan Sweeney, CEO and Co-founder of PopMenu, told Yahoo Finance.
He emphasized that quality, convenience, and value are now top of mind for consumers, referencing a separate PopMenu study, conducted in Q1 2022, which found that 29% of consumers believe it is cheaper to order from restaurants rather than buy the ingredients needed to cook a meal.
"With grocery prices going up, the economics between dining out at a restaurant and using groceries to make a meal are not so different anymore," the executive stated.
Grocery prices rose 1% last month and 12.2% on a year-over-year basis with the prices of cereal, bread, and chicken seeing increases of 2.5%, 1.6% and 1.5%, respectively, compared to the month of May.
On an annual basis, the prices of those items were up a whopping 14.2%, 10.8% and 17.3%, respectively, according to BLS data.
The nationwide survey, which polled more than 1,000 adults in May 2022, added that 45% of consumers dine at restaurants at least twice a week — a shift away from the online delivery and takeout boom seen during the pandemic (although one-third of consumers who do order online spend $50 or more per order, according to the report.)
"The reason people are willing to pay a premium for in-person dining is because we miss that experience — it was taken from us during the pandemic," Sweeney explained.
"We're all willing to pay a little bit more to have that feeling of normalcy, regardless of what's going on in the world," he continued.
As budgets tighten, survey respondents said they are more likely to pull back on other purchases such as streaming subscriptions, concerts, and sporting events before reducing their restaurant spend.
Forty-four percent said they'd give up new clothes, 42% would forgo travel, and 33% revealed they'd eliminate the gym — all in favor of going out to eat.
"I'm not surprised at all that people would defer other things, especially activities that are tiring. Everyone has been through so much over the past few years...restaurants are a place of comfort and normalcy."
"Ultimately, all we really want is to have that human connection ... this shows just how resilient the desire to go to restaurants really is," he concluded.
Alexandra is a Senior Entertainment and Food Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193 and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org