Restaurants are responding to a powerful consumer trend: a desire for fresh, made-to-order food, delivered quickly, at prices just above those at fast-food eateries, and served in an atmosphere that makes customers want to hang around.
Panera is one such example that has been spotlighted recently in the book Trading Up: The New American Luxury, by Michael J. Silverstein and Neil Fiske, based on studies by the Boston Consulting Group about the changing preferences of middle-income consumers.
The consultants define “new luxury” as the willingness of those with average household incomes of $50,000 a year to pay higher prices for select higher-quality products that give them emotional satisfaction. In a recent survey of middle-income Americans, the consulting group found that 85 percent said they spent more for premium-quality products. The reasons vary, but they boil down to: It makes them feel better and makes their lives more enjoyable.