In Russia, throughout most of 2018 (Jan.-Oct.), we saw a noticeable shift in consumer behavior around eating out. Consumers maximized value for money on their out-of-home purchases in three ways: 1) choosing cheaper places; 2) ordering less food & beverages; and 3) using promotional offers in their dining establishments.

As a result, the average individual check in foodservice was virtually flat compared to the same time period in 2017, while the average price per item on the menu increased. The stagnation of the average check takes place against the background of a general increase in expenditures in the foodservice industry, as well as inflation which, according to official sources in Russia, was 3.6 percent.

Not only did the average number of menu orders for food decline, drink orders were impacted, too, with alcohol orders falling, and the share of all cold drinks decreasing. In this case, people are being more rational when it comes to ordering in restaurants. They’re there to eat; they can drink at home.

Fast food is the only channel that was able to buck the negative sales trends we saw in Russia, with visits to fast food restaurants increasing by 13 percent. In an effort to minimize costs, consumers choose less expensive eating establishments, turning to fast food, which often offers the best in terms of price and portion size.

Promotional offers, which also help consumers save money, have become very popular with guests. A variety of coupons, discounts, and offers, when a main dish, side dish or drink is offered for free, attracts consumers. At the same time, according to NPD, the promotional offer does not affect the size of the average check. Interestingly, the highest proportion of promotional visits in Russia last year was in fast food.

It’s too early to predict just how much of what we saw in 2018 will carry over into 2019, but I’m confident that we’ll continue to see consumers looking for more inexpensive options when eating out. The foodservice industry would be wise to target them in order to maximize sales opportunities.