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The rise of the experiential consumer, and why DE&I is the future of the U.S. restaurant industry

The post-pandemic spending spree is over, with recent data confirming our long-held view that consumers have made a lasting shift towards spending on meaningful experiences. Financial headwinds will put pressure on restaurants at all value points to deliver a service offering that clears the bar for discerning customers. However, shortfalls in DE&I investment could leave firms hamstrung and struggling to attract talent amid high job openings in the sector at a time when service becomes a key differentiator. 

Our research tells us:

  1. Discretionary spending habits changed during the pandemic. In 2022, nearly 1 in 2 consumers maintained that the pandemic likely drove permanent impacts to their buying habits: a greater awareness of health and sustainability, and a drive to make spending count. 

  2. Restaurant spending is trending down, and legacy tactics traditionally used in downturns will be less effective this time, while new, significant opportunities to grow dining share emerge.  

  3. Many concepts are caught in the no man’s land of convenience and experience, with poor service-first propositions. Reducing the number of dine-out occasions and cutting back on take-out remain the top two tactics consumers plan to use as wallets tighten. 

  4. Workforce management will be critical at all price points, with a large gap between what restaurant companies are investing in DE&I and awareness of those efforts among store-level employees impacting hiring and retention.

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article, restaurants, diversity and inclusion, trhl, americas, united states, english us, esg