Restaurants, bars see biggest decline in 2 years; what do local experts say?

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Less people are dining out

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

If it has been awhile since you’ve had a date night, dinner or cocktails out with friends, you aren’t alone.

Restaurants and bar sales have had their biggest decline in two years in the U.S., slumping 1.8 percent from August to September, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

News Center 7 Consumer Reporter Rachel Murray talks to experts to see what's behind the trend, which airs at 6 p.m.

“We now have other options. Groceries are becoming better at doing to-go meals and having prepared foods,” said Frank Leibold, professor of culinary arts and hospitality at Sinclair Community College. “Things like Dream Dinners, Blue Apron and Home Chef, all the portions are given to you and all you have to do is cobble them together and you have a decent meal at home.”

Leibold said local restaurants are faring better thanks to flexibility, but chains are stymied by rigid corporate guidelines.

“You lose that personal touch and then you are going to lose customers,” Leibold said.

He expects sales to bounce back as more restaurants offer new options, like shareable entrees, focus on the customer through apps and social media, and create an entertainment experience for diners.

“Make sure the service is above average and really delivers what the customer needs, then I think we will see a rebound,” said Leibold.

Sinclair student Marianne Hoenie said fresh, healthier options also will bring diners back.

“I’ve heard someone say America is starving in nutrition. The nutritional value is going to attract customers because Americans struggle with their weight and their nutritional intake. Customers would love that,” said Hoenie.