Restaurant owners are feeling the pinch as more Americans eat at home to cut down on household expenses, a new survey finds.

Forty-four percent of 5,000 consumers recently polled said they planned to spend less at restaurants over the next three months, according to Changewave, a Lancaster, Pa.-based market research firm. That's up from 40 percent in a similar survey in August.

To cut down on costs, about a third of respondents said they would go out less, while 28 percent said they would seek out cheaper restaurants. As such, upscale restaurants are expected to take the biggest hit, researchers said.

Respondents cited rising costs, including higher food and energy prices, for cutting down on restaurant spending.

Restaurant owners have reported a downturn in same-store sales for eight out of the last 10 months, including declines in customer traffic, the National Restaurant Association reported last month.

"Nationally, the restaurant industry is in the midst of its most challenging environment since the early 1980s, as consumers are being hit by a perfect storm of the sluggish economy, elevated food and energy prices, and declining wealth," said Bruce Grindy, chief economist of the National Restaurant Association.

Grindy said despite the slump, the restaurant sector continues to outperform the overall retail sector. Through September, sales at eating and drinking establishments rose by 4.2 percent, compared to 2.3 percent by retailers in general, he said.

"While the restaurant industry isn't recession-proof, it generally fares better than most other industries during economic downturns," Grindy said.