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Published 05.07.2018

The Next Wave of Menu Transparency

We can expect the demand for menu transparency to evolve as consumers express the need for new product insights and increased expectations. Mintel predicts that consumers will require complete and total transparency from food and drink companies in the coming year.1 They also report that the next wave of clean label food will challenge manufacturers and retailers to democratize transparent food so that products are accessible to all consumers regardless of household income.1 This will also drive decisions on where to eat when dining away from home.

Elizabeth Friend, strategy analyst at Euromonitor International, recently stated, “consumers want reassurance that they’re making good choices and getting good value. Transparency is as much about the perception of quality and care being taken with food and with the products as it is with any particular health trend or ingredient.”2

With stronger demands for transparency, restaurant operators should pull back the curtain to reveal everything from how they source ingredients to the ethics of their business practices. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare yourself and your staff for inquisitive customers.

Ingredient Sourcing

The transition from traditional to cleaner, healthier ingredients continues to play a major role in consumer perception. It’s no surprise that availability of locally sourced produce and high-quality proteins like antibiotic-free turkey and organic chicken are significant factors diners consider when determining where to eat. Help guide your customer’s decision by proactively promoting your high value menu claims.

Chicago-based Honey Butter Fried Chicken manages to be transparent about everything from sourcing partners to business practices. They demonstrate their commitment to quality through their décor (including napkin holders describing sourcing and community connections), as well as menus, staff interaction and their website, noting that the chicken is humanely raised, antibiotic- and cage-free, and that the frying oil is free of GMOs and trans fats.2

Business Practices

Transparency is not restricted to food quality and sourcing; it can also communicate the “healthiness” of the business itself.2 The vast range of information sources available can influence how customers perceive your restaurant. You can help cultivate trust with your customers by being the first to offer access to the information they’re seeking. Whether interested in transparency around your staff, sourcing practices and relationships with your vendors, create a website or blog where customers can access this content and feel confident about supporting your business.

Many manufacturers are eager to take advantage of the growing demand for transparency and high-value menu claims, so be wary of those that have only taken one step to meet that demand. A little research can go a long way. For example, manufacturers may tout that their products contain no-antibiotics, but will not inform you what they feed their birds. Therefore, it’s important to look for specific claims such as “No Antibiotics Ever” and “raised on an all vegetarian fed diet with no animal by-products” to ensure you’re getting complete and total transparency. Not only will you feel better about your offerings, but your customers will also appreciate your commitment to quality, which can help cultivate long-term trust.

Today’s consumers want the truth and will actively seek it out. By proactively demonstrating how you source ingredients and sharing your ethical business practices, you can help instill confidence in your customers.

1 Mintel, Mintel Announces Five Global Food & Drink Trends for 2018, 10/26/17
2 Szalay, Jessie, “With Transparency, Perception is Everything,” QSR, April 2017

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