Monday, January 11, 2010

Newly Frugal Generation Revives Discount Dining

In a clear sign of an emerging wave of consumer frugality, restaurants are once again reviving the depression era early-bird dinning specials. According to a report in the New York Times:
The early bird special at Cafe Prima Pasta [in Florida] began last year after the restaurant’s owner, Gerardo Cea, lost all his savings in real estate and began seeing his regular customers at the supermarket. “They weren’t coming anymore,” Mr. Cea said. “They couldn’t afford it.” He expected his offer of a 50% discount before 6 p.m. to attract the usual crowd of frugal retirees. But word kept spreading, and on most nights now, at least half the tables are filled with young families, singles or hip couples.
A few nights later at Cafe Prima Pasta, the urge to splurge brought out a party of 13. Mostly employees of a nonprofit in their 20s and 30s, they laughed as they explained that they were eating early for a simple reason: “Because we’re broke.”
Many restaurant owners, on Florida’s east and west coasts, now report seeing behavioral changes that remind them of the generation that survived the Depression. In addition to coming in early for specials, they said, more customers have been using coupons, sitting down only after studying the menu and wasting less food.
The value of money has changed in America,” said James Accursio, whose family has owned the Capri, an Italian restaurant in Florida City, since it opened in 1958. “We’re not high rollers anymore.”

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