I drive a Toyota Prius, so I think nothing of hopping in my car and driving 15 miles across town to run an errand or visit my favorite restaurant. It might cost me a couple bucks in gas.
But I am not your typical guest or would-be guest. The average American is fretting over how much more money it is costing to fill the tank. As the average price of a gallon of gas edges closer to $4 a gallon—even more in some parts of the country already—the impact is likely to be palpable. Some of us will start favoring public transportation. Others will rethink their driving habits, combining errands and outings. But it’s likely that families on tight budgets will need to cut back elsewhere to balance out their spending. One area that might suffer is dining out.
A recent National Restaurant Association survey found that 71 percent of full-service restaurants were being negatively affected by rising gas prices. It’s even worse for quick-service and fast casual operators, whose core customers are feeling the pinch the most. Roadside restaurants that depend most on automobile traffic have taken a big hit as well.