Prepared Food Aisle Is the New Restaurant

Restaurants take hit as customers opt for cheaper grub
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jul 13, 2009 2:49 PM CDT
A mother and son sample foods at a Whole Foods Market in Pasadena, Calif.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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(Newser) – Cash-conscious consumers who’d rather not cook are increasingly ditching restaurant dinners in favor of grocery stores’ prepared meals, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. At some stores, prepared-food sales have jumped 7% to 10%, says an industry consultant. For their part, supermarkets are hawking a bigger and better selection of such offerings. “We're saying, 'We're cooking so you don't have to,'” says a supermarket exec.

Meanwhile, the National Restaurant Association predicts a 1% drop in inflation-adjusted sales this year, reversing a recent trend that saw grocery store visits drop and restaurant business rise. Still, that doesn’t mean supermarkets have it easy: It can be tough for stores to change their supply lines with prepared meals in mind and to recruit experts in food preparation. Still, with more space being devoted to prepared food, it’s likely “supermarkets will start looking more and more like restaurants,” says an industry consultant.