The summer months are upon us. The weather is warm, the kids are out of school, and summer vacations are in full swing. For most Canadians, summer is a time to relax, but, for many in the foodservice industry, it’s the beginning of strategic planning for the upcoming foodservice year. To get a head start, check out three of the NPD Group’s five strategic trends predicted to shape the restaurant industry in 2014.
The educated consumer
Once they have become connected, the Internet is one of the last things consumers are willing to give up. Connectivity is king, and the dramatic rise of smartphone use ensures we are connected at all times. This constant connectivity has provided today’s consumers with a wealth of knowledge and an incredible desire to learn. The desire to learn has created an educated consumer who is changing the way today’s companies — including restaurants — do business. Such a consumer is responsible for numerous trends over the past few years and may be behind such dramatic consumer behaviours as the latest gluten-free phenomenon (see story on p. 11). According to NPD’s MenuTrack, the mentions of gluten-free items increased by 36 per cent on menus across Canada in 2013, which is an example of how consumers are responding to a greater understanding of the effects food has on their bodies. This is forcing today’s restaurateurs to provide greater transparency on menu ingredients, create healthy menu items as well as offer insight on the origins of foods on their menus. Armed with increasing awareness and food knowledge, today’s educated consumer will have the greatest impact on the restaurant industry in 2014 and beyond.
Menu innovation driven by limited-time offers
In a foodservice marketplace that is struggling to increase guest counts, every opportunity should be considered. Menu innovation is one such area of opportunity. Today’s educated restaurant customer is exposed to and understands more about the foods they are consuming. As such, they are seeking more innovative, bold and exciting menu items and demanding greater choice. According to NPD’s “Full-Service Dining Report: What Customers Want,” 70 per cent of full-service dining customers are seeking greater menu variety. This demand has created an opportunity for today’s savvy restaurateurs to promote menu innovation as a strategic approach to increase guest counts. Focusing on limited-time offers as a tactical approach helps establish a competitive point of difference, resulting in more customers while catering to the desire for menu innovation. During 2014, menu innovation will be a core focus for restaurateurs and, as a result, limited-time offers will become a key strategy used more aggressively throughout 2014.
Is it time to review your pricing strategy? It is a well-known fact that once they’ve decided on a restaurant, Canadian consumers are less motivated by price than they are by food quality and/or menu innovation. According to NPD’s Guest Count Driver analysis, which uncovers the top attributes that increase guest counts at restaurants, menu pricing rarely emerges as a primary factor. Therefore, restaurateurs who discount and deal to drive guest counts may be leaving money on the table. Although, price can attract customers, it needs to be considered more strategically. Instead of focusing on price, consider the greater impact of value. Today’s restaurant consumer has a clear idea of what value means to them, and it’s not just price. According to findings from NPD’s Guest Count Driver analysis, the top three attributes of value are: quality, good taste and convenience. Focusing on the entire value equation provides an opportunity for savvy restaurateurs to increase average eater checks and increase revenue in a market struggling with increasing guest counts.