Sales of Prepared Foods Flatten

In response to rising prices on food, gas and other necessities, even affluent shoppers appear to be shifting their purchases from restaurants to home food preparation, according to a recent study by DSR Marketing Systems, Northbrook, Ill. The study, which compiled data gathered from Image Audit surveys conducted in affluent neighborhoods of metro Chicago and Memphis, Tenn., found that restaurant

CHICAGO — In response to rising prices on food, gas and other necessities, even affluent shoppers appear to be shifting their purchases from restaurants to home food preparation, according to a recent study by DSR Marketing Systems, Northbrook, Ill.

The study, which compiled data gathered from Image Audit surveys conducted in affluent neighborhoods of metro Chicago and Memphis, Tenn., found that restaurant purchases have declined 23% between 2007 and 2008. Supermarket prepared-food departments have been much more resilient, but they still faced a 3% decline during the same period in those areas.

Similarly, a recent study by the NPD Group found that consumers are brown-bagging their weekday lunches more often, leading to a softening of midday meal business at restaurants.

White-collar professionals are leading the trend, eschewing both quick-service and full-service restaurants, as well as restaurant takeout and workplace cafeterias.

Lunches carried from home increased from 35 per capita in 2006 to 38 per capita in 2007, for a total of 8.5 billion lunches per year for adults 18 and over. Adult men bring their lunch to work more often, but the survey indicates that adult women have driven the trend's growth during the past few years.

Among consumers who have typically visited restaurants and QSRs for weekday lunches, almost half said that they were doing so less often now.