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Single patrons shore up restaurant industry.

New statistics released by the National Restaurant Association show that not only do single persons dine out more frequently than their married counterparts, they also continue to grow in numbers and account for an increasing share of aggregate income.

Currently, single persons under 45 years of age are the most frequent patrons of cafeterias, fast food and tableservice restaurants. They also use carryout and delivery services more often than married couples and singles over 45.

During this past year, for example, 42 percent of singles under 45 reported dining at least once a week at tableservice restaurants where the average per-person check was under $10. This figure compares with 28 percent of married persons in the same age bracket, and 35 percent for both older singles and older married persons.

Similarly, younger singles are more frequent users of fast food establishments. Two out of five singles under 45 eat on site at a fast food place once a week or more, whereas one-quarter of married individuals under 45 and only one-fifth of older singles report the same frequency.

"Eating establishments nationwide are gradually realizing the growing contribution single households make to their bottom line, especially during these cautious economic times," commented association president John R. Farquharson. "They are beginning to recognize and reward this loyal patronage with programs such as frequent diner cards and birthday discounts."

Recent data from the Bureau of the Census confirm the growing importance of single households. While the proportion of households accounted for by families has declined, households with one person and those with unrelated roommates have increased.

According to the Census, households with single persons or unrelated roommates grew in number nearly three times faster than family households did between 1980 and 1990. Almost three out of 10 households in 1990 were individuals living alone or with nonrelatives only--a dramatic increase from the 19 percent of households they comprised in 1970.

In terms of actual numbers, nonfamily households numbered 27.3 million in 1990, out of 93.3 million total households nationwide. Although the rate of increase has slowed recently, this figure is up considerably from 21.2 million nonfamily households a decade ago, and 11.9 million in 1970. The District of Columbia leads the country in percentage of nonfamily households (51 percent), followed by New York, Colorado and California (each around 32 percent).

An upsurge in singles is important for restaurateurs because single-person households and unrelated-roommate households spend a relatively large portion of their food dollars away from home.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, singles and unrelated roommates in 1989 spent nearly half (46 percent) of their total food budget away from home, compared with 42 percent spent away from home for total households. In terms of actual per capita dollars, singles and unrelated roommates also spent more on food away from home than persons from most other household types--$780 per person per year, 15 percent above the $678 per person away-from-home spending for all households. [Tabular Data Omitted]
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Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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