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Americans Are Going to Restaurants Less, But Spending More

Last year, the average American household spent $7,023 on food. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, just under half of that amount was forked out at restaurants, but that doesn't mean that Americans are going to restaurants more.
September 2, 2016, 7:00pm
Photo via Flickr user Kurman Communications

Last year, the average American household spent $7,023 on food.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, just under half of that amount ($3,008) was forked out at restaurants, on those days when hard-working Americans don't feel like cooking or doing dishes. That's an almost 8 percent increase in food-away-from-home spending from 2014.

And while this might seem like good news for the service industry, a closer look at the Labor Bureau's number reveals some interesting and counterintuitive trends about the restaurant night. For instance, you could assume that a significant increase in restaurant spending would mean that Americans are going to restaurants more often, but the reality is that they aren't. Turns out we're just spending more when we do treat ourselves to restaurant food.

READ MORE: Lazy Americans Are Blowing Tons of Their Money on Food Delivery

According to Burger Business, a restaurant industry website that describes itself as "menu and marketing news with plenty of napkins," more expensive menus are at the heart of this spending increase.

"We know from chain quarterly reports that much of that increase came from higher menu prices, but, still, dining-out dollars accounted for a greater percentage than in 2014," they wrote, adding that "spending may be up, due in large part to menu-price inflation, but foodservice visits remained flat."

Burger Business also reported that "quick-service" restaurants like McDonald's and Burger King are the "prime driver" of sales in the foodservice industry, making up 80 percent of total sales. Americans still spend most of their food dollars at home (57.2 percent), as opposed to at restaurants (42.8 percent), yet "the gap continues to close," says Burger Business, suggesting that there is still a chance that consumers will one day, on average, spend as much on eating out as they do at home.

Another interesting insight here is that single-parent households spend more money on food (both at restaurants and at home) than any other group, with 13.4 percent of their income going towards feeding their family. So it's not like people who eat at restaurants a lot are living high on the hog, either.