Are consumers eating out more frequently or are they preparing more meals at home? That depends on who you ask.
According to new NPD Group data, over 80% of meals were prepared and eaten at home in 2017. US consumers dined out 185 times last year, down from the 2000 peak when that figure was 216. Additionally, half of all dinners purchased at restaurants are eaten at home now.
NPD points out the difference between spending and frequency since restaurant spending is up 2% this year, according to its research, but that is attributed to higher prices not increased foot traffic.
In an October 2017 survey by FMI, on average the US consumer prepared 4.9 dinners at home per week. This would translate to 70%, which isn't completely out of line with NPD's figure, but adding in breakfast and lunch--meals often eaten outside the home or on-the-go--might bring the average down. In an April 2018 survey, though, that average had declined slightly to 4.6.
Perhaps consumers are eating more at home, but according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data they aren't spending more of their income on groceries than in the past. In 2017, the share of US consumer spending on food at home was 7.3% compared to 7.9% in 2000. Share of spending on food away from home was the same for both years: 5.6%.
Spending by age hasn't changed radically either. In both 2000 and 2017, the youngest (under 25) spent more of their income on going out to eat while the oldest (over 75) spent more of their money on eating at home. In pure dollar terms, ages 35-54, roughly Gen X, spent more on groceries and dining out than all other generations.