Keep Diners Engaged By Appealing to Springtime Eating Habits


Post-hibernation  foodservice behaviour

Spring is in the air, and Canadians are eager to embrace the new season. This means many will shed their winter layers and end this year’s hibernation by visiting restaurants more often. Every spring there are consistent increases in many areas in foodservice, from food to dayparts to operator types. The question is: how can operators use this information to guide their spring menu and increase traffic?

We recently used our CREST data to conduct a five-year time-frame analysis comparing data from March, April and May to December, January and February. What follows is an outline of what that analysis uncovered.

Warm-weather snacking

Come spring, there are typically traffic increases across all dayparts, but the most noticeable increases come during snack occasions. Afternoon snacking has increased by an average of 21 per cent during the past five spring seasons, and evening snacking has increased by an average of 12 per cent.

This isn’t surprising given that warm weather entices consumers to snack on cool treats such as ice cream, iced coffee and milkshakes; servings of such items have grown consistently during the past five years. To offset the additional calories in their treats (or to prepare for bathing-suit weather), main-dish salad servings also rise by an average of 24 per cent.

Eating in the great outdoors

According to NPD consumer research, the number of dining “occasions” enjoyed outside increases by an average of 27 per cent in the spring — perhaps because of the warmer temperatures. It explains why typical picnic-style food servings increase, too. For example, in foodservice, potato-salad servings increase by 32 per cent, hotdogs servings increase by 35 per cent and sausage sandwich servings — Italian, Polish or brat — jump by 79 per cent when the mercury rises.

Convenience and retail foodservice visits also increase in the spring as some consumers opt to buy snacks, beverages and picnic items through retail rather than at traditional restaurants. Convenience traffic grows by 27 per cent when the winter recedes and retail traffic grows by 24 per cent.

Put the data to work

So, when the sunshine lures diners outdoors, entice them inside with special promotions and limited-time offers on popular spring foods. Grab-and-go options are ideal, because they make it convenient for people to eat on their own time, whether picnicking in a scenic spot or sneaking away for a quick hotdog or salad in the park.

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