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Budget-Friendly Menu Items Grow in Popularity

It used to be that value-oriented meals were the domain of quick-service or even fast-casual restaurants. But in an attempt to maintain traffic levels, a growing number of restaurant operators, this time representing all segments, continue to promote value on the menu, according to Mintel’s Menu Insights study.

“Dining out is a choice, not an obligation,” said Mintel’s Maria Caranfa. “By offering people the prices they can afford with the food quality and experience they crave, restaurants can stay vibrant and current in today’s economy.


“Foodservice has been hit hard by people cutting back,” Caranfa said. “When we surveyed Americans last January, over half said they were trying to reduce restaurant spending because of the economy. Many people’s finances have worsened since then, so it’s smart for restaurants to advertise lower prices. The key to making these lower prices work, however, is maintaining food quality and making sure every customer’s experience is optimal. Restaurants need to make cheap chic.”

Caranfa highlighted a “$5 phenomenon” taking place in quick-service restaurants. For example:

Subway Footlong subs for $5, Quiznos Large Deli Favorites for $5, Pizza Hut’s Pizza Mia Pizzas for $5 each (when you order three or more), and Boston Market meals for $5.

“For restaurants, the $5 deal is a happy medium between satisfying the customer and staying competitive within the industry,” Caranfa said.

Family and fine-dining restaurants are also finding innovative ways to help diners stretch a dollar: T.G.I. Friday’s “Right Portion, Right Price” – smaller servings of regular entrées, value-priced between $5.99 and $9.99. Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s “Economy Proof” meal – soup or salad, entrée and side dish from a limited menu of items for $35.95