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Published On: Wed, Feb 22nd, 2017

Americans eat out less as higher menu prices take a bite from restaurant visits

A third of U.S. adults are eating out less frequently than three months ago, mostly because of cost, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos survey that illustrates the challenge for U.S. restaurants seeking to revive traffic after zero growth in 2016.

Penny-pinching diners and intense competition from supermarkets, meal kit sellers like Blue Apron and upstart grocers such as Amazon.com (AMZN.O) have been a growing problem for restaurants.

Annual traffic to U.S. restaurants has been flat or up just 1 percent since 2009, when there was a 2 percent drop in the wake of the debilitating financial crisis, according to data from the NPD Group.

One-third of respondents to the Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll of more than 4,200 U.S. adults from Jan. 14 to 25 said they were eating out less often than three months ago. Of those diners, 62 percent said cost was the primary reason.

Recent minimum wage increases have prompted some U.S. restaurant operators to raise menu prices while less labor-intensive grocery stores have been able to pass lower food costs on to shoppers.

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