Restaurants may be moving beyond big steaks and even bigger spenders. As financial woes grip the nation—-and people grip their pocketbooks—-Mintel Menu Insights reports more restaurants are promoting value on the menus.

Through Mintel’s newly enhanced Menu Insights database, director and registered dietitian Maria Caranfa sees more restaurants from fast-food to fine-dining promoting quality menu items for lower prices.

“Foodservice has been hit hard by people cutting back,” she says. “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 highlights a “$5 phenomenon” taking place in quick-service restaurants. For example:

* Subway Footlong subs for $5

* Quizno’s Large Deli Favorites for $5

* Pizza Hut’s Pizza Mia Pizzas for $5 each (when you order three or more)

* Boston Market meals for $5

“Many quick-service restaurants are permanently lowering regular menu prices to draw in customers,” Caranfa says. “They’re giving people more for their dining dollar, offering good quality food at a reasonable price. For restaurants, the $5 deal is a happy medium between satisfying the customer and staying competitive within the industry.”

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 entrees, 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

“Dining out is a choice, not an obligation,” Caranfa says. “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.”

Finance, News