Though restaurants still face commodity price inflation, Americans are eating out at restaurants with greater frequency, showing that the industry seems to be on the mend, according to a survey by AlixPartners LLP.

Americans are eating at restaurants more often, and the restaurant industry seems to be on the mend, says a new survey by global business advisory firm AlixPartners LLP, Chicago. Still, restaurants continue to face issues of commodity price inflation and a still-cautious, value-driven consumer.

According to the survey, there is some good news: 70% of Americans dined out at least once per week over the last year, compared to 49% in a similar survey from the first quarter of 2010. Dining trends are recovering across all segments, with the best growth on the high and low ends, with convenience stores and fine dining outpacing other segments.

“Our consumer survey showed that customers are dining out more, and we’re seeing that reflected in the industry financials,” reports Adam Werner, managing director at AlixPartners and head of the firm’s Restaurant & Foodservice Practice in North America. “We’re seeing a lot of improvement in the restaurant industry and the overall outlook is positive.”

But restaurants can continue to face ongoing challenges. Diners remain budget-conscious and many maintain conservative spending habits brought on by the weakened economy. AlixPartners’ survey found that per-meal spending continues trending downward, with consumers saying they expect to spend 5% less per meal at restaurants in the next 12 months – an average of $13.40 per meal versus $14.10 per meal over the previous 12 months.

“Discounting is absolutely here to stay. Customers continue to look for a deal, and continue to expect to find coupons, even at fine-dining establishments,” Werner adds.

The study also indicated that healthy menu options remain important, with nearly 49% rating healthy menu options as “extremely” or “somewhat important” to their dining choices. But when nutritional information was printed directly on the menu, only 40% of those surveyed said they ordered healthier options more frequently than they may have in the past.