Despite What You’ve Read, Americans Are Cooking at Home
Recent headlines in major publications have led readers to believe Americans no longer cook and rely most heavily on restaurants for their meals. The issue with this premise is they’re mostly using one or two metrics that do not tell the entire story. At NPD we look at the complete picture of food and beverage consumption from all sources, which reveals the exact opposite scenario depicted in these articles.
The ratio of dollars spent on food in the home versus food away from home is almost evenly split, with a little more than half going to restaurants. This has led some writers to believe Americans are abandoning their kitchens in favor of the convenience restaurants provide. However, using only dollars to conduct your analyses tells only part of the story. Our CREST® data shows trips to restaurants have fallen since 2000 and are back to 1987 levels. This also explains why 82 percent of our meals are sourced from the home, which is up – not down – from a decade ago.
So how do we explain the apparent discrepancy between the increase in dollars but decrease in trips? Dollar sales are a function of prices and since an away-from-home meal typically costs around three times that of an in-home meal, it makes sense that restaurants take a disproportionate share of consumers’ food dollars. On top of that, prices at restaurants have on average increased faster than retail food prices over the last decade. This is why people are spending more dollars at restaurants while at the same time visiting them less often.
While U.S. consumers might not be dining out more, they do turn to foodservice for a shortcut in their in-home meal preparation. Close to half of dinners purchased from a restaurant are consumed at home, and a growing number of in-home meals are a blend of dishes prepared at home and items purchased ready-to-eat from a foodservice establishment. Our recently published Future of Dinner report forecasts blended meals, which include a restaurant or prepared food, will grow over the next five years.
In addition to foodservice, consumers’ in-home meal prep is also aided by the modern conveniences of grocery delivery, meal prep kits, grocerants (supermarkets that offer restaurant-quality foods), online ordering, and technology-enabled kitchen appliances and tools.