Trading Down, Trading Out and Dining In: Restaurant Customer Behavior in Germany, France and the UK

Takeaways:

  • The French value speed at QSRs and appear less frugal than guests in the UK and Germany.
  • Guests in Germany and the UK might be memorizing menu prices.
  • ‘Everyday’ meals are being made at home, but guests plan to socialize and celebrate at restaurants.

Revenue Management Solutions reported on quick service restaurant (QSR) trends and performance in the US in July, comparing Q2 2022 to Q2 2021. At that time, traffic was down and the average check was up. By September, consumers continued to feel the pinch and the Fed had raised the interest rate – again.

Are countries east of the Atlantic also feeling the squeeze from rising prices? It appears so. In the UK, the August inflation rate was 9.9% higher than it was 12 months ago. And EU inflation rose to 9.1% in August from July’s 8.9%.

RMS took a look at Q3 consumer restaurant usage, surveying diners in the EU’s France and Germany and in the UK. You can get the complete report on diner behavior in each country, as well as all of our other consumer reports, here. Read on for some of the highlights, including similarities across borders — and a few anomalies. 

Guests are spending less, but their methods vary

It’s not a surprise to find that, no matter the country, guests are much more sensitive to price now when compared to Q1 2022. However, when it comes to how they’re managing spend, France is trading down and visiting less expensive restaurants, while in Germany and the UK, diners are reducing their overall restaurant frequency.

A closer look:

Germany: Among diners spending less in Q3 2022, 55% are ordering less frequently from restaurants to save, an increase of 15% points from Q1 2022 when more guests managed their spend by trading down.

France: For the French spending less on dining out, 25% are choosing less expensive restaurants to save, while 22% are trading down to less expensive menu items. It is encouraging to note that in Q3 2022, there was a decrease (from a whopping 40% in Q1) in those trading down to less expensive restaurants.

UK: Of those spending less on FAFH in the UK, 51% are saving money by ordering less frequently, a 12% increase from Q1 when more guests managed their spend by trading down to less expensive items and restaurants.

(Some) guests are scrutinizing your menu

In Germany and in the UK, restaurants can count on 2 out of 3 diners to compare prices across your menu before they place an order. However, in France, only 43% do.

In addition to prices, what is it exactly that these guests are looking for? According to diners in France and the UK, they’re hoping to find variety, and according to survey respondents, they’re just not finding it on today’s menus. German diners appreciate choices too, but they’re eager to find value options on your menu, and 2 out of 5 diners say it’s a miss.

Overheard at the drive-thru window: ‘I need a minute, please’

You know diners are feeling the pressures of rising prices when they report that they always know the price of the menu items — before they order. That’s the level of cost consciousness diners in Germany (57%) and the UK (72%) are exhibiting. In France, less than half (47%) of guests are that aware.

A combination of reasons to order the combo meal

A reminder to know your customer: It appears that combo meals compel diners for different reasons. For those in the UK and Germany, it’s a matter of cost. At more than 50% each, diners in these two countries were motivated to buy a combo meal because they felt it was a better deal than ordering items individually. In France, guests were not as interested in a deal. Half of these guests said they purchased combo meals at QSRs because they were faster to order.

Unexpected: Among the three countries, culinarily selective France consumed combo meals at the highest rate, with 74% of respondents having bought a combo meal from a QSR in the past month. The UK followed at 65%, with Germany trailing at 58% in monthly combo meal purchases from a QSR.

Where restaurant guests went and where they’re going

Warmer months typically bring out consumers. This summer, guests chose to dine in, while still favoring QSRs. This is most likely a combination of seasonality and overcoming pandemic hesitations.

In Germany, all other channels — delivery, takeout and drive-thru — declined. All channels increased in France, where drive-thru increased a sizable 31%. In the UK, along with dining in, delivery and drive-thru also increased, but takeout dropped.

In the face of rising inflation, it’s likely not surprising that more respondents across all three countries said that going forward, they intend to cut back on restaurant spending compared to Q1. Instead of dining out, they’ll be dining in — at home. According to survey results, compared to last quarter, up to 30% more guests are returning to the kitchen to cook “everyday” meals.

There is good news, though: Entertaining and spending time with family and friends, and celebrating special occasions, are happening more frequently at restaurants.

In Germany, the increase is marked, with a 23% increase in socializing at restaurants compared to Q1. 

In France, 33% of respondents said they would celebrate a special occasion at a restaurant over cooking at home, an increase of 11 percentage points. 

What matters most

Finally, when it comes to QSRs, there’s no contest: Food quality and accuracy are the most important factors to diners, while speed and service rank as the least important. 

Just like all industries and businesses, consumers are feeling the sting of inflation and increasing costs of living. Yet, along with that pinch, gathering with friends and family over a meal remains critical.

As you strive to delight and retain your customers, know that RMS is here to help you manage the pressures inflation is putting on you and your operations. You can download all three reports mentioned in this post here.

RMS remains committed to equipping you with a path forward — informed by data. Reach out to us today for practical strategies designed to optimize menu profitability, sales and financial health.

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