The Highs and Lows of Economic Anxiety

Trend: Economists have declared that the recession ended in June 2009, but consumers are having trouble shaking it off. By all measures, they are continually pessimistic about the economy. Today’s Consumers’ recessionary mentality is entrenched – 69% (including 60% with a household income of more than $125K) say that, regardless of economists’ judgments, it still feels like we are in a recession. The majority (59%) still have a moderate/high level of economic anxiety, while the other 41% have low or no economic anxiety, regardless of financial well-being. The recession, which didn’t damage or impact everyone in the same way, is leaving, broadly speaking, these two groups in its wake – with different mindsets and needs. One is more price conscious, more frugal. The other is willing to spend, motivated by getting the best value and not being wasteful; spending money wisely and smartly has practical and emotional value for this group.

OPPORTUNITY: It’s important not to lose sales opportunities, but also not to push people who are tapped out. To get clues to guide guests, tune into their process going through the menu. Are they asking mostly price-related questions? Include menu options that allow this group to gracefully spend less; provide flexibility with price points and portion sizes and sprinkle your wine list with very reasonably priced options. For those who don’t appear to be as price sensitive, engage them, give them reasons to spend with offerings that are innovative, special, different; let them see your chef’s imagination at work, particularly in fine dining.

CAUTION: What these two groups have in common is a value orientation. Even those consumers who aren’t afraid to spend will evaluate most opportunities from this perspective.

(Source: 2010 Yankelovich MONITOR®)