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BrandWeek reports that the nation's economic difficulties are driving people away from restaurants and into supermarkets, with the frozen food section a beneficiary of changing consumer priorities.

According to the story, "Traffic for casual dining, a segment that includes Applebee's, Ruby Tuesdays and TGI Friday's, fell 0.3% in the first quarter of 2008. But industry watchers say those ex-diners aren't necessarily cooking at home. Instead, they're gravitating to prepared foods at supermarkets like Publix and Whole Foods Market … Prepared foods account for almost $5 billion a year in sales at supermarkets nationally, per the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association in Madison, Wisc.

"Meanwhile, there's some evidence that consumers may be reaching for frozen dinners—at least some of them—more often."

KC's View:
Supermarkets need to be asking themselves how they are going to keep these sales if and when the economy straightens out, and that means positioning themselves as more than just cheaper than restaurants. It means working the differences hard, and every day – pointing out to shoppers how eating at home carries with it not just taste advantages, but can actually strengthen the family in both tangible and intangible ways.

But the worst thing that supermarkets can do is just emphasize their price advantages and look to ride the current wave of consumer priorities until it ends. Because that won’t build the business…it'll just build short-term sales. And while the latter isn’t bad, it isn’t nearly good enough.