Something’s gotta give: tech costs vs. dining
Is the cost of television, Internet and phone service hurting casual dining chains? Maybe.
There’s no question casual-dining concepts are losing traffic. According to the NPD Group, family visits to restaurants totaled 16 billion in 2008. But last year, families with children under 13 made just 14.5 billion visits to restaurants, and 70 percent of the 1.5 billion in lost visits have come from casual dining.
So what does this have to do with the cost of cable, Internet and phone service? Consider that the price of cable has increased nearly threefold since the mid-1990s. Now, the average bill ranges from $61.63 to more than $86, depending on whom you ask.
We’ll assume the low end, $60. Add in $50, for the average Internet bill, and then another $100 a month for a family wireless phone plan, and the average communication cost hovers around at least $210 a month—and we’re assuming no landline phone service. For a low-income family, that’s a substantial amount of money, $2,500 a year.
The decline in restaurant traffic has a lot to do with how much consumers have available to spend. And they don’t have as much as they used to.
Casual dining is more expensive than a pizza or a visit to a quick-service restaurant or a simple meal at home. As families’ budgets have stretched, it makes sense to cut out the more expensive dining options first. And as much as consumers love restaurants, apparently they love their television that much more.