Restaurants are shifting their business practices to introduce a greater number and wider variety of claims that reflect trending food concerns. According to Mintel Menu Insights, while the use of the term “organic” has declined, claims like “gluten free” are appearing more frequently on restaurant menus, posting a 200% increase between Q4 2010–13. And as operators try to signal that their offerings are unique, “signature” as an ingredient marketing claim grew 34%.
Snack consumption is on the rise, as half of today's consumers (51%) say that they eat snacks at least twice a day, an increase from the 48% who said the same in 2012. And about a third of consumers (31%) told Technomic they're snacking more frequently than they were just two years ago. Not only are consumers snacking more often, they're broadening their definition of a "snack."
Although restaurant operators invest heavily in promoting new menu items, only about 30% of consumers are willing to try a new menu item. Seventeen percent of these “early adopters” will order a brand new menu item and 10% will try a limited time offer item, according to new research from The NPD Group. Consumers often try a new or unfamiliar menu item based on their perceptions of its taste and visual appeal, as well as its healthfulness and price.
Vegetable dishes are becoming more prevalent in restaurants today. Innovative operators are transforming super foods such as eggplant, cauliflower and zucchini into center-of-the-plate options. According to new research from Technomic, more than nine out of 10 consumers agree that menu items containing a full serving of vegetables are more healthy.
Cleanliness (96%), menu selection and variety (94%) and comfortable seating (91%) are the most important components of creating a visit-worthy atmosphere at a restaurant, according to a new report from Mintel. Noise level is also key, as some 93% of those aged 65+ say noise level is important to them when dining out versus 82% of all respondents. It is vital that restaurants address these areas first, before looking at the needs of specific demographics.
The day-parts for eating have been expanding as U.S. consumers show increasing variation in the times that they eat out. In addition to the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner pitches, restaurants are encouraging consumers to drop by for a mid-afternoon or late evening snack. There’s another meal that deserves a portion of marketing dollars and that’s the weekend brunch.
Over three in five U.S. adults (64%) have dined at a fast food restaurant chain in the past month and just over half have dined at a local casual dining establishment (54%) and a casual dining restaurant chain (52%). Suburban Americans are more likely to have visited a casual dining restaurant chain (57%) than their urban and rural counterparts (both 47%), according to Harris Interactive. American food is the preference for the highest percentage of U.S. adults (31%).
With so many different types of restaurants specializing in unique types of cuisine, operators might be inclined to target specific demographic groups to boost business. Restaurants often market their food niches and price points as a way to attract what they believe is a unique group of patrons. New research suggests this could be exactly the wrong strategy.
Daily deal sites made a big splash on the national scene a few years ago. By merging the social networking aspect with deep discounts, marketers believed they could connect with more customers and generate more revenue, though they needed the help of a deal site company to pull off these promotions. Utpal Dholakia, Rice University, has periodically issued research results on this topic and his latest study shows that restaurants will be proceeding carefully in the daily deal industry.