Diners who have visited a casual dining chain in the last 6 months would be likelier to return if the chains served fresher food, according to the 2018 Food Service Industry Report from TrendSource, San Diego, Calif.

The report, which considers consumers' perceptions, practices, priorities and pain points in the casual dining industry, focuses on the Top 20 chains in the United States.

The majority of respondents choose casual dining chains for their comfort and casual atmosphere. But, familiarity can breed contempt, and over the years, consumers have grown savvy to the fact that foods are often prepared off-site and heated in the restaurant. Thus, they want these chains to serve healthier, fresher and more interesting fare.

"Pivoting to fresher food may require a rethinking of their culinary approach and business model, but it may ultimately prove to be a necessary change, as today's restaurant-goers expect fresher and even local options at their local eateries," says Sarah Rowlett, director of client and consulting services.

For the most part, casual dining chains have convinced consumers that their prices, menu variety and even service are serviceable, according to the report, but consumers just want the food itself to be better. The report additionally breaks diners into clusters based on their dining priorities, separating the experiential eaters from the trend setters and the flavor fanatics.