Consumer attitudes toward health, nutrition, animal welfare, the environment and social corporate responsibility are changing. And that’s changing the way restaurants do business. In response to these concerns, foodservice operations are expanding offerings, upping the convenience factor and taking serious stock of brand positioning. Here, we take a look at what’s top of mind for restaurant patrons, and how the industry is responding.
Climate change, animal welfare and reducing the use of single-use plastics, to name a few, are some of consumers’ current social and environmental concerns. Many U.S. states and cities have adopted bans on disposable straws and cutlery in an effort to combat the plastic problem. But operators who want to attract conscientious consumers—especially millennials, who place a premium on corporate social responsibility and vote with their dollars1—might consider initiating changes themselves. Switching to compostable straws and cutlery, for example, can make a strong sustainability statement, while menuing items like PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® No Antibiotics Ever Chicken and Turkey demonstrates a commitment to animal welfare.
Diets are out, healthy eating is in
Mintel reports that 50 percent of U.S. consumers are actively trying to lose weight. Yet most—91 percent—also believe it’s better to eat a balanced diet than use diet products.2 Consumers want healthy options and foods that can maximize nutritional benefits, but the focus is no longer on deprivation. Instead, consumers are looking to add more vegetables, protein and functional foods to their plates. Pairing PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® No Antibiotics Ever Chicken and Turkey with functional foods such as blueberries, strawberries and oranges—which are high in antioxidants—is a good example of menuing that reflects healthy eating trends.
Convenience is crucial
Even though consumers want healthy options, they must also be convenient. According to Mintel, 82 percent of consumers say convenience is a top concern when dining out.3 This can be seen in the proliferation of c-stores with coffee bars, full menus, drive-thrus and dining rooms. Offering grab-and-go options can help operators capitalize on the convenience trend. Newk’s, for example, sells pre-made meals and heatable trays intended for off-premises consumption, and Los Angeles–based chain Lemonade offers pre-made salads, sandwiches, wraps and juices for on-the-go consumers.4
Technology also plays a major role in convenience. From ordering via smartphone apps and kiosks to delivery services like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub, technology is often an integral part of today’s restaurant experiences.
Customization is king
Technomic’s Trends Shaping Foodservice Through 2020 report found that 72 percent of consumers expect “build your own” options at restaurants.3 Salad bars, pizzas, bowls and sandwiches fit this bill, allowing consumers to order exactly what they want and nothing they don’t. Consumers also want snacking options, smaller portions and breakfast anytime, as lines between dayparts blur.
As consumers become more informed and the restaurant space becomes more crowded, customer demands are becoming more sophisticated. They want healthy food from socially responsible companies, but it must also be convenient and customizable. For operators to stay competitive, they must meet these needs in addition to providing top-notch service and great-tasting food. With so many options in the restaurant space, successful brands will need to bring their A-game when it comes to consumer preferences.
- Rudominer, Ryan, “Corporate Social Responsibility Matters: Ignore Millennials at Your Peril,” Georgetown University Center for Social Impact Communication, http://csic.georgetown.edu/magazine/corporate-social-responsibility-matters-ignore-millennials-peril/
- The French’s Food Company, Wellness moves front and center, 2018, https://www.frenchsfoodservice.com/insights-trends/articles/wellness-moves-front-and-center
- “6 Consumer Trends Shaping the Future of Restaurants,” Restaurant Business, May 3, 2018, https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/consumer-trends/6-consumer-trends-shaping-future-restaurants
- Flaherty, Devon, “How Far Can the Grab-and-Go Trend Go,” QSR, Nov. 2018, https://www.qsrmagazine.com/menu-innovations/how-far-can-grab-and-go-trend-go