CHICAGO — Despite signs the recession is ending, a study from Mintel found 24% of restaurant-goers plan to spend less at restaurants this year than they did in 2010.

“Even with the economy on the mend, consumers are still very cautious about increasing their restaurant spending,” said Eric Giandelone, director of food service research at Mintel. “The restaurant industry grew 2.1% to reach $403.5 billion last year, but if restaurant-goers reduce how much they spend when they eat out, or only spend as much as they did last year, restaurants could have a slow recovery ahead of them.”

In fact, 66% of restaurant-goers said they would spend the same amount at restaurants this year, and 10% said they would spend more at restaurants in 2011 with consumers with the highest household income being the most likely to say they will spend more. Casual dining restaurants are the most popular segment of restaurants, with 67% saying they like to go to casual dining restaurants when they go out to eat.

“This focus on frugality isn’t likely to disappear any time soon,” Mr. Giandelone said. “For the near term, restaurants will still need to focus on value, such as limited-time offers, small portion size options, kids-eat-free promotions, or other creative ideas to increase traffic with value pricing and help consumers feel more confident about spending their dollars at a restaurant instead of a grocery store.”

Price is a primary reason consumers aren’t increasing restaurant spending with 63% of restaurant-goers saying it’s too expensive to eat out regularly.