Inflation is Changing Grocery Shopping and Dining Habits

July 22, 2022

Gas isn’t the only commodity that soars in price during times of high inflation; prices at grocery stores and restaurants are also rising. These increases cause consumers to revisit their buying habits and shift around their priorities. Instead of ordering takeout, they might decide to buy groceries in bulk and dine in at home. Ultimately, this means fewer trips to the store and less time spent dining out at restaurants. According to a recent survey by Civic Science, 51% of Americans are cutting back on dining out at restaurants due to inflation. To understand how inflation has been affecting consumer dining habits and grocery shopping behaviors, we compared foot traffic to food stores (including grocery stores and convenience stores), coffee shops, American restaurants, and fast food restaurants from the first quarter of 2021 to the same time period in 2022. 

Inflation is Changing Grocery Shopping and Dining Habits

U.S. Consumer Dining & Food Shopping Habits in Q1 2022

Both food stores and American restaurants saw significant peaks in foot traffic during Q2 2021. As coronavirus vaccination rates increased, many consumers returned to shopping for groceries in-person instead of ordering grocery delivery, and they started dining out at sit-down restaurants again as well. After Q2 2021, all categories saw declines in foot traffic, which remained below Q1 2021 levels through the rest of the year and into 2022. By Q1 2022, foot traffic to food stores was 10% lower, compared to the first quarter of 2021, while American restaurants had a 13% decline. By the beginning of 2022, coffee shop foot traffic was 24% below Q1 2021 levels. Visits to fast food restaurants were 26% lower than the first quarter of the previous year. In December 2021, the consumer price index reached 7% and food costs contributed significantly to this increase, which could explain why these particular dining categories saw low foot traffic in Q1 2022.

Foot Traffic Trend - Dining: American Restaurant, Coffee Shop, Fast Food Restaurant, Food Store

A Look at U.S. Dining & Grocery Shopping Trends By Region

Foot traffic to food stores was down for all regions year over year; the most significant decline was in the Northeast. This reflects the nationwide trend, observed in the previous chart, that consumers aren’t visiting grocery stores and other physical stores to buy groceries as frequently as they once did. American restaurant foot traffic decreased most dramatically in the Northeast, but remained relatively flat (-2%) in the West. Visits to fast food restaurants were significantly down across the U.S., especially in the Midwest and Northeast. Restaurant owners have raised menu prices in response to rising operating and food costs, and this change has ultimately been absorbed by customers. In Q1 2022, fast food restaurant foot traffic in the Midwest was 33% lower, compared to the first quarter of 2021. Coffee shops saw a significant decrease in visits in the Midwest and Northeast. The West, known for its high consumption of gourmet coffee, only saw a 18% decline in coffee shop visits year over year.

Foot Traffic Trend - Regional Dining: American Restaurant, Coffee Shop, Fast Food Restaurant, Food Store

The Future of Dining & Food Shopping Behavior in 2022

Based on our data, we predict that consumers will continue to dine at home as much as they can and only dine at restaurants occasionally. With summer travel coming up, it can be expected that people will want to dine out more during their vacations, and this might help boost foot traffic to restaurants, as well as food stores. If coronavirus cases increase later in the year, consumer dining habits in the autumn and winter may differ slightly from those in the summer. Consumers might decide to forgo dining inside and return to takeout or/and curbside pickup options. To learn how your organization can use consumer trends for market research, contact one of our location intelligence experts today.

Scroll to Top