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Survey: Diners Still Spending - Just Not as Much
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From Business First of Columbus ( "Americans are still heading to restaurants in the recession, but they are spending less for meals, says a survey by A Closer Look, a Norcross, Ga.-based hospitality researcher. The online survey, which attracted 1,190 consumers nationally in November and December, found 98 percent of consumers were eating out or ordering take-out at least once a week. But 43 percent said they are spending less than they did a year earlier. Coupon use at restaurants is growing, and offering meal discounts or free items are among the best ways to attract customers, A Closer Look said. Fifty-four percent redeemed both dine-in and take-out coupons recently, and nearly one-third of those questioned admitted to using coupons more during the second half of 2008 compared with the first half of the year. Despite the economy, the survey shows consumers are still trying new restaurants.

From September to November 2008, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they tried one to three new restaurants; 17 percent tried a new restaurant four times or more during that period, averaging more than once a month; and 9 percent said they frequented their favorite restaurants instead of venturing out to a new one. A recommendation from a friend is the primary reason consumers try a new restaurant, at 36 percent, but the survey showed a coupon or an incentive runs a close second at 30 percent. Location was a key factor for 18 percent of respondents, menu selection motivated 11 percent and a reputation for being family-friendly was most important to 5 percent of respondents.

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