Global Diners Want Familiar Foods and Fair Prices

Global Diners Want Familiar Foods and Fair Prices

Jonathan Banks, Director Retail Insights, Nielsen Europe, The Nielsen Company

SUMMARY: Restauranteurs take note: when consumers around the world go out to eat, the number one factor in choosing where to go is finding cuisine that’s close to home. Results from the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey show that diners want familiar food, and they want it at a fair price.

While it may not be surprising to hear that one-third of global consumers choose a restaurant based on the type of cuisine—after all, food is the reason for eating out—what may be more intriguing is that more than one quarter (27%) prefer their local cuisine over international fare. A Nielsen global survey of Internet users in 52 markets across Europe, Asia Pacific, the Americas and the Middle East also revealed that globally, reasonably priced food is consumers’ second most important consideration (24%), though diners in Japan, Estonia, The Netherlands, Portugal, the Philippines, Belgium, Malaysia and Italy say that prices are actually the most important factor in their restaurant choice.

Value and variety

Both cuisine and reasonable prices far outrank other primary considerations such as a convenient location (10%), healthy food options (6%), décor and ambiance (2%) and recommendations from friends (2%), ample parking (1%) and Internet reviews (0%) when choosing a restaurant. Interestingly, only 2% of respondents choose a restaurant primarily because they don’t have time to prepare a meal at home, and globally, no respondents select restaurants because they’re considered the latest ‘in’ place.

Australians and Singaporeans prefer Chinese food even over their local fare…

Food favourites

Chinese and Italian food—perennial international favourites—are close runners up to local cuisine, with 26% and 17% of the global respondents choosing them as their second favourite choice. Ironically, while 34% of Chinese respondents prefer their local cuisine as their first choice for dining out, 56% say that Chinese cuisine is their second most favourite. And Australians and Singaporeans prefer Chinese food even over their local fare. In Hong Kong, consumers’ first preference is for Japanese cuisine (42%), and in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the preferred cuisine is Indian (34%). The preferences in Singapore and UAE are likely driven by ethnicity, as Singapore’s population is 75% Chinese and UAE is nearly 50% South Asian.

Preferred cuisine

The most patriotic restaurant-goers are the Italians, with 91% saying they prefer their local cuisine, followed by consumers in Turkey (82%) and India (81%).

The majority of global consumers dine out between one and three times per week…

Frequency findings

The survey revealed two schools of thought on eating out: while the majority of global consumers (44%) dine out between one and three times per week, as many as 38% only enjoy a meal out-of-home once a month or less. Consumers in the Asia Pacific markets dine out more frequently than consumers in other regions, particularly in Hong Kong, where nearly one-third (31%) say they eat at restaurants every day or more than once a day. In contrast, Europeans are the least likely to venture out for a meal—more than half (56%) say they dine in restaurants at most once a month and 7% say they never eat out. The Dutch are most likely to eat out less than once a month at 57%.

The frequency of out-of-home dining is reflective of local cultures. Many Asian countries emphasize out-of-home socializing, but Europeans are more likely to share a meal around the family table. The survey findings also provide insight into where the global financial meltdown has been felt most acutely, with more Europeans tightening their belts and curbing out-of-home entertainment. It is interesting to note, however, that only 1% of Europeans choose a restaurant because of special offers or promotions, versus 4% of North Americans who make that a primary or secondary consideration.

Dining decisions

Dinner is by far the most popular out-of-home meal, with approximately 60% of global consumers saying they most commonly go out for the evening meal. This is consistent across most of the world’s regions with the exception of Latin America, where the mid-day meal is culturally considered the main meal of the day, and 73% of respondents go to restaurants for lunch.

More than one-third (37%) of the world’s consumers prefer to eat out on Saturday, followed by 31% who eat out on evenings during the Monday through Thursday week. More than half (55%) are most likely to enjoy a restaurant meal with family and friends—though only 5% say that family members’ preferences are the primary or secondary consideration for choosing a restaurant. Just over one-quarter of consumers (27%) dine out most often with their partners, 9% with work colleagues and 7% choose to dine out alone.

Cultural differences are reflected in the choice of companions for a restaurant meal…

Cultural differences are reflected in the choice of companions for a restaurant meal. While only 4% of Latin Americans say they most often dine out with their partner; they are overwhelmingly more likely to go out with friends and family (69%) or work colleagues (14%). In contrast, 42% of Europeans are most likely to dine out with their partner and only 4% of North Americans are most likely to go to restaurants with colleagues from work.

Check, please

With nearly half the world’s consumers eating out at restaurants several times a week, restauranteurs should be reassured that dining out remains an affordable luxury and preferred entertainment option, despite recessionary times. The most certain route to on-going success is well-prepared local cuisine offered with value and pricing in mind.