Despite Reports to the Contrary, Restaurant Operators Planning to Expand

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A recent report reveals what’s on the minds of restaurant customers and operators today. Consumer data from the 2017 American Express Restaurant Trade Survey, based on a sample of 1,016 respondents weighted to US census based upon gender, age, education, race and region, has some insights on a few matters.

According to the report, more than half of respondents feel that it is important for a restaurant to use local ingredients in their menu (56% answered “very important” or “somewhat important”).

In a separate survey of restaurant officials, many are trying but still lag consumer interest in local ingredients: 44% restaurants currently use locally sourced ingredients while another 39% plan to or are considering doing so.

In other trends, some restaurants are adopting communal seating where customers share tables with others not in their party. The majority of customers (57%) don’t like the idea, with one-third fine with the idea, but not interested in seeking out this type of restaurant. Just 10% of respondents said they like the idea of communal seating and would try a restaurant that offers it.

Dramatically different were the responses of Millennials. Fifty-three percent are on board with communal seating and 17% would seek out a restaurant that offers this type of seating.

Restaurants have a slightly different take when it comes to communal seating. More than half either currently offer (28%) or are planning/considering adopting (24%) communal seating.

When it comes to social media, 31% of consumers have written a favorable review or social media post about their restaurant experience, and almost half (47%) will post other aspects of their dining experience on social media like check-ins or photos of their meal and/or drink. Nearly three-quarters of Millennials (72%) will post their restaurant experience on social media, including 25% who will post photos of their meal and/or drink.

On average, the American Express report continued, consumers have visited a restaurant twice in the past month. Most frequently, they are visiting fast food, casual or fast-casual restaurants. In the past month, 43% have visited a fine-dining restaurant, and 85% have visited a casual restaurant with table service.

Despite recent fears of an impending restaurant consolidation, restaurant owners and managers surveyed generally gave positive responses. Over half (54%) report that their revenue is more than it was one year ago, and nearly three-quarters (72%) expect a continued increase over the next year. Eight in 10 restaurant owners/managers plan to hire staff in the next year, and more than a quarter (28%) are likely to seek financing over the next 12 months in order to hire and for remodeling (34%), expansion (33%), technology (33%) and marketing (31%).

Nearly half (47%) are very confident that they would have sufficient access to capital if needed for their restaurant, and nearly two-thirds (65%) have plans for technology investments in the next 12 months. On average they plan to spend around $4,200.


Responses among consumers represent those who have visited a restaurant in the past month based on self-reported responses. The anonymous survey was conducted online April 13-17, 2017. Restaurant owner/manager data is based on an online study conducted among a sample of 488 respondents who are owners/managers/directors/CEOs/etc. of an independently owned restaurant. The sample for the study came from an online panel. Invitations to participate in the study were sent beginning on April 20, 2017 and data collection continued through May 1, 2017.


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