CHICAGO — While there is a growing divide in the way the financially strained and financially comfortable use restaurants, both groups are cost-conscious and appreciate deals, according to The NPD Group.

The sluggish demand for restaurants can be attributed to both the financially strained and financially comfortable, but a greater proportion of those cutting back are those most affected by the economy.

NPD found that 56% of the more than 5,000 consumers they surveyed said they are financially strained with 44% saying they are financially comfortable. The majority of the financially strained are 18 to 34 years old, and the financially comfortable are mostly evenly dispersed. However, twice as many of those 65 and above fall into the financially comfortable group compared with the financially strained. In addition, 75% of the financially comfortable and 92% of the financially strained classify themselves as controlled spenders.

“It is presumed financially-stressed consumers have kept the industry from realizing growth, but that’s not the case,” said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst. “For this reason it’s important that food service marketers understand the behavior of both groups in order to align both short and long-term marketing strategies appropriately against the correct target.”

Price and affordability are preventing the financially strained from visiting restaurants more often, and diet and health reasons are preventing the financially comfortable from increased visits. No matter their financial situation, consumers are still looking for deals to bring them back to restaurants. However, what is classified as a good deal depends on the consumer’s financial situation. For the financially comfortable, frequent visitor cards and rewards programs are good enticements, but the financially strained are looking for coupons and discounts.