Soaring gas prices are cutting restaurant sales and profits, studies show

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Nearly half of U.S. consumers are cutting restaurant spending due to soaring gas prices, as pain at the pump may result in shorter orders and travel to cheaper places, according to a new report from research firm Technomic.

A separate study found that restaurateurs also face the impact on their own budgets. Around 66% of operators participating in a survey by the Alignable Research Center said their post-pandemic recovery had been delayed by higher energy costs, primarily in two ways. Higher transportation expenses and other increased costs faced by manufacturers and distributors are funneled to the restaurants they supply, compressing margins, respondents said.

Additional pressure comes from the higher cost of refueling the delivery vehicles that transport meals to customers’ homes and offices, the survey found. A sharp increase in off-site activity has been a lasting effect of the pandemic, amplifying any increase in the costs of this service.

Technomic found that the primary impact of rising gas prices is currently slightly greater for limited-service concepts than for full-service operations. About 49% of consumers surveyed for the report said they cut back on spending at quick service locations, compared to 48% who said they were more conservative when visiting table service locations.

The researcher suggested the impact could change as consumers become more adaptable to using more of their income to buy gasoline. Its white paper explains that past spikes in prices at the pump have encouraged consumers to economize when they want a restaurant meal, instead of skipping the opportunity altogether. Patrons of fine restaurants are turning to less expensive and more casual places, while patrons of the latter are opting for limited-service options.

“This slide down the price scale is happening, rather than a massive shift to more meals on wheels,” the white paper notes.

Technomic also pointed out that past gasoline price spikes have prompted consumers to limit their orders, “forgoing extras such as desserts, appetizers and extra drinks.”

No other area of ​​consumer spending is as likely to be affected as restaurant usage, Technomic found.

Half of motorists in the study said soaring prices at the pump will have a “significant” impact on how they spend their disposable income.

Technomic is the research sister of Restaurant Business.

The Alignable Research Center was created in March 2020 by Alignable.com, a referral network for small businesses, specifically to track the industry’s efforts to respond to the pandemic.

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