What is in this article?:
- Restaurants expect stronger holiday party season
- A more relaxed environment
Operators say consumers will spend more but have more casual gatherings.
The holiday season is shaping up to be slightly better than last year’s for restaurants.
Although customer traffic is flat or slightly down, those who are going out tend to spend more, chefs and restaurateurs are observing.
“People are dusting off their checkbooks a little more this year than in the past two or three years,” said Patrick Lyons, chief executive of The Lyons Group, a Boston-based company that operates restaurants, bars, lounges and other entertainment venues. “Instead of the C-grade wine, they might be buying the B- and A-priced wines.”
That jibes with data from consumer research firm The NPD Group, which reported flat restaurant traffic for the year but higher average checks, for a 2-percent overall spending increase.
Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association, was also optimistic about the holidays.
“Dining out remains a top activity for the holidays, and savvy restaurant operators leverage that opportunity to market accordingly,” Riehle wrote in an e-mail, noting that consumers use restaurants for special meals during the holidays and that businesses hire them to cater events.
“While both consumer and business spending remains cautious, the overall business climate for restaurants is better than it was several years ago. As the economy continues to gradually improve, this holiday season is likely to also follow that pattern,” he said.
Some chefs say Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve parties have been booked earlier than usual, a sign of growing consumer confidence. During the past two recessions restaurateurs observed that guests tended to make spur-of-the-moment holiday plans.
“Christmas Eve will be booked by the weekend, a little earlier than last year, and New Year’s Eve should be booked a week out,” said Paul Fehribach, executiveand owner of Big Jones in Chicago.
“Christmas Eve is going to be a huge day,” said Anthony Martin, executive chef of Tru in Chicago. He also observed that New Year’s reservations were coming in earlier than usual.