Restaurants can appeal to all income levels

Income level greatly influences how often and why consumers use foodservice. For example, nearly twice as many Affluent as Working consumers use foodservice more than once a week. Greater disposable income and time pressures prompt affluent consumers to seek out the convenient yet high-quality meal options often at the leading edge of new foodservice industry trends.

That said, affluent consumers are only a small share of the total foodservice market, and it would be remiss to ignore patronage and purchasing decisions among middle- and lower-income groups in order to learn how to build incremental sales with these consumers as well.

Consider the landscape among limited-service restaurants. Monthly patronage at fast-casual restaurants and coffee shops skews to Affluent and Upper-Middle income groups; however, fast-food restaurant patronage is comparable among all groups. In contrast, Upper-Middle and Affluent consumers are far more likely than their Working and Lower-Middle counterparts to visit full-service restaurants once a month or more often.

"To appeal to economically diverse foodservice consumers, restaurants impose a varied menu," says Executive Vice President Darren Tristano. "On one side of the menu there are products that appeal to price-sensitive customers e.g., dollar menus. Lower-priced items can retain customer patronage and possibly lead to trading up at future visits. In contrast, you've got items that appeal to customers who see price as a secondary factor. They may be trading down from an expensive restaurant but still want some higher-end menu options. Most of the menu, however, focuses on your core products. Now you have something for everyone."

To help operators and suppliers understand how income influences consumers' foodservice behavior, Technomic has developed The Influence of Income Consumer Trend Report. In order to target consumers by affluence – not simply income level – Technomic segmented consumers into four groups – Working, Lower-Middle, Upper-Middle and Affluent – based on household income, household size and cost of living, all of which impact consumers' disposable income.

Two-fifths (43%) of Affluent consumers compared to 27% of Working consumers say they prefer restaurants that offer new or innovative flavors and ingredients.

Takeout usage skews to lower-income consumers; 58% of Affluent consumers' foodservice occasions are for dine in, compared to just 42% of Working consumers' foodservice occasions.

Affluent consumers are still value shoppers, In fact, 41% of Affluent consumers versus 30% of Working consumers say loyalty and rewards programs can encourage them to visit specific restaurants over others.

Traditional health claims that relate to calorie and fat content, such as low calorie, low trans-fat and low-fat resonate most strongly with Upper-Middle income consumers. Meanwhile, health-halo terms such as 'local,' 'seasonal' and 'premium' are most appealing to Affluent consumers, likely because they relate to the overall quality of the item, and, often, a higher price point.

Technomic's Influence of Income Consumer Trend Report examines how consumers' level of affluence impacts foodservice patronage, attitudes and preferences. The Overview section provides government data on income distribution across the US and gives a snapshot of consumers in each income level. The Consumer Insights section, based on insights from an exclusive survey from 2,000 consumers—including an oversample of consumers with annual household incomes of $115,000 or more—highlights differences in foodservice patronage, attitudes, and preferences among the different consumer groups in these segments.