As operators navigate this difficult time, there’s a new way of thinking to capture limited dining dollars. They are finding creative ways to capture consumer traffic more than ever before. Menu transformation focused on convenient, economical meals can help foodservice outlets weather an industry disruption or economic downturn. Case in point: the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting dine-in ban. Foodservice outlets of all stripes—from restaurants to hospital cafeterias to convenience stores—are innovating across dayparts.
While dining-out dollars are shrinking overall—foodservice spending declined 45 percent in February 2020 compared with a typical week in February1—daypart visits are shifting too. Dinner, not lunch, is now the leading daypart, with 16 percent of customers ordering dinner from restaurants the previous day.2
Ring the Dinner Bell
Upheaval brings new ways to impart value in grab-and-go, carryout and delivery dinner options via meal bundles, meal kits and even groceries.
At Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, a new line of meal bundles aims to meet the dining-at-home demand. Among the casual dining chain’s offerings: Chicken Bowl & Salad; Cheeseburger & Wing Combo; and Build Your Own Tacos with ingredients for 10 chicken tacos. For guests who prefer to cook, the new grocery menu offers such items as 2.5 pounds of chicken tenders; 2 pounds of sliced corned beef; 14-ounce bone-in rib eye for two; and 2 pounds of sliced prime rib.3 Consider offering something similar with premium proteins such as PERDUE® No Antibiotics Ever Fully Cooked, Grill Marked, Boneless Chicken Breast Strips, which offer 18 grams of protein per serving.
Now California Pizza Kitchen is upping its dinner game with the launch of several family meal kits as part of its CPK Market, including the 20-pound Raw Fruit & Veggie Box and a four-serving Lettuce Wrap Kit featuring lettuce cups, Asian-inspired sauce, green onions, shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts and chicken. The chain is also helping customers manage the run on grocery items during the COVID-19 outbreak, selling grocery staples like eggs, rice flour, sugar and whole milk, along with bundles of raw fruits and vegetables, raw meat and seafood, pasta, bread, and desserts.3
CPK isn’t the only operator trying outside-the-box strategies. Subway now sells groceries in some of its Southern California restaurants.4
The Next Generation of Snacking
A drop-in lunch business for quick-serve and fast-casual operators can be devastating. Handling the impact of closed offices and the loss of lunch break outings during the COVID-19 outbreak can be more like a case of making lemonade from lemons. For example, try blending lunch and snacks into one midday occasion. After all, between-meal and after-dinner snacks made up 23 percent of all restaurant traffic in 2018.5
The key to capitalizing on this trend can be as simple as offering mini versions of popular items. For example, in October 2019, Jimmy John’s debuted the 6.5-inch Little John as a “skinny” version of its seven original sandwiches (including the Turkey Tom) for only $3. This move came on the heels of Subway’s September 2019 launch of its Sliders line. The four sandwiches— including the Little Turkey featuring turkey breast, pepper Jack, spinach and mayo on a telera slider roll—have a low price point starting at $1.89. 5
Focus on Better-For-You Options
Snackable offerings and grab-and-go cases are a match made in heaven, but think beyond pork rinds and hot dogs. Convenience stores need to leverage consumer desire for healthier snacks. According to Vixxo research, 63 percent of consumers would favor C-stores that offered more fruits and vegetables, while 68 percent would more frequently visit stores that offered healthy sandwiches and salads.6
And it’s not just convenience stores delving into healthier meals to go. At Newton Medical Center in Newton, New Jersey, the Meals that Heal program lets patients order nutritious to-go meals before they’re discharged. The microwaveable meals are low in fat and sodium and meet nutritional guidelines.7
Build out your own healthful premium snack line with PERDUE® No Antibiotics Ever Italian Style Turkey Meatballs, which satisfy consumer demand for free-from additives and healthy alternatives to red meat, or PERDUE® Fully Cooked Boneless, Skinless Diced Chicken Breasts, which are made with no animal by-products and individually frozen for portion control.
Break Out With Breakfast
Breakfast’s popularity extends throughout the day. Consider portable hand-held options such as breakfast burritos, sandwiches and wraps. Additionally, any lunch or dinner dish— burgers, ramen, flatbread and pizza, for example—can get the breakfast treatment simply by adding a fried egg on top.8
Don’t forget the coveted millennial demographic. Forty-two percent of millennials would like more foodservice operations to offer chicken for breakfast, and 39 percent would like more turkey for breakfast—both of which they consider to be healthier alternatives to the usual breakfast pork and beef.8
If you plan to include chicken or turkey in your breakfast offerings, go the extra mile and source proteins that are hatched, raised and harvested in the USA using No Antibiotics Ever such as PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® chicken and turkey.
No matter the daypart, work with your operator base on developing dish and serving ideas to get consumers through the dine-at-home-only experience with flavor, convenience and obvious value. Many of these ideas could become the new norm, even after the all-clear to dine out again is given.
- “Technomic’s Take: COVID-19, The Foodservice View,” March 27, 2020, https://www.technomic.com/technomics-take/coronavirus-foodservice-view
- “Traffic Briefing 1,” Datassential, March 25, 2020, https://datassential.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Datassential-Coronavirus-Traffic-3-26-20.pdf
- Thorn, Bret, “Menu Tracker: New items and deals from Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Red Lobster and Einstein Bros. Bagels,” Nation’s Restaurant News, April 3, 2020, https://www.nrn.com/menu/menu-tracker-new-items-and-deals-carl-s-jr-hardee-s-red-lobster-and-einstein-bros-bagels
- Luna, Nancy, “Subway testing ‘Subway Grocery’ in 100 Southern California restaurants,” Nation’s Restaurant News, April 7, 2020, https://www.nrn.com/quick-service/subway-testing-subway-grocery-100-southern-california-restaurants?NL=NRN-01a&Issue=NRN-01a_20200407_NRN-01a_228&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_1_b&utm_rid=CPG06000000120666&utm_campaign=37374&utm_medium=email&elq2=627468b9ae0a4c3ba91627fa3b2d96b5
- Thorn, Bret, “Jimmy John’s Launches Smaller Sandwich,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Oct. 8, 2019, https://www.nrn.com/quick-service/jimmy-john-s-launches-smaller-sandwich
- Sexton, Renee, “Vixxo Research: C-Store Customers Want Convenient, Healthy Food,” The Shelby Report, April 4, 2019, https://www.theshelbyreport.com/2019/04/04/vixxo-research-demand-convenient-healthy/
- Meals and Dining, Atlantic Health System, https://www.atlantichealth.org/patients-visitors/hospital-stays-visits/meals-dining.html
- Strailey, Jennifer, “Industry Waking Up to the Untapped Profitability of Breakfast,” Grocery Business, Nov. 25, 2019, https://www.winsightgrocerybusiness.com/retailers/industry-waking-untapped-profitability-breakfast