Kruse: Innovation key to taking business back from supermarkets

Kruse: Innovation key to taking business back from supermarkets

WASHINGTON —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

Kruse, the president of The Kruse Co. and a contributing editor to Nation’s Restaurant News, told attendees of the 49th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference that supermarkets are successfully siphoning off business from restaurants. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

As a result of current economic pressures “restaurants are losing share to supermarkets,” she told attendees during her “State of the Plate” presentation. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

“People are eating at home because of changes in their financial situation—they are cutting expenses—because they are driving less and because the quality is better,” she said. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

In fact, many supermarket chains now employ professionally trained culinarians to help improve their takeout selections, Kruse said. She cited Ukrop’s Super Markets, which offers a line of pizzas and paninis as well as a chef’s daily special in the form of a complete dinner for two for $11.99. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

However, the deal clincher, she said, is that customers who use Ukrop’s for takeout also can receive a discount on the price of gasoline. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

She also pointed to Whole Foods Market, which has stepped up its takeout business. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

“Whole Foods is approaching $1 billion in takeout business,” she said. “Between 25 [percent] and 30 percent of its patrons do takeout.” —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

As a result, restaurateurs need to fight back by employing strategies that supermarkets can’t match. She recommended that foodservice operators “promote quality and freshness,” and pointed to Red Lobster’s Georgia Peach and Kentucky Bourbon BBQ shrimp and scallop selection as an example. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

“You would never find a dish like that on a supermarket menu,” she said. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

Kruse also recommended restaurants employ cooking techniques that would be hard for supermarkets to replicate. She cited as examples Dairy Queen’s Iron Grilled Sandwich line and Maggiano’s char-crusted pork tenderloin with strawberry demi-glaze, tomato and leek couscous. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

She told attendees that people are looking for escape, so “pamper them.” As an example, she cited Ruby Tuesday [3] with its new lighting, more deinstitutionalized look and upgraded service. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

Promoting wellness is another tack restaurants can take, Kruse said. She cited Fuddruckers’ lighter option selections, “Fudds and Feeling Great,” which includes burgers made from less fatty meats like ostrich, buffalo and turkey. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

Kruse also recommended that operators steal a move from supermarkets’ playbook by offering samples to customers. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

“You have to be smart about getting small bites into the hands of your customers,” she said. “If customers are on the wait line, get a server to offer samples of new items or hot new products to them for free.” —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

In addition to employing a “pushback” strategy against supermarkets, Kruse also advised attendees to consider three other P’s: protein, portion and premium. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

Protein strategies can include offering premium proteins like Olive Garden’s mixed grill with skewers of marinated steak and chicken or slow cooking less expensive cuts of meat like Maggiano’s braised beef cannelloni, she said. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

She also discussed such portion strategies as “mini-mania,” which is currently sweeping the industry. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

“Minis are so hot; T.G.I. Friday’s [4] introduced a slider menu,” Kruse said. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

However, she also warned conferees that the mini life cycle was “pretty close to saturation.” —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

On the flip side, Kruse also pointed to a current premium strategy of offering “better burgers.” In addition to mentioning such premium-burger chains as Five Guys, The Counter [5] and New York Burger Co. [6], she also pointed to such high-end chefs as Bobby Flay and Marcus Samuelsson, both of whom have developed upmarket burger brands. —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.

Economy, politics take center stage at confab [7] —Restaurateurs must step up their culinary creativity during tough economic times, particularly when confronting heightened competition from aggressive supermarket chains, advised menu trends expert Nancy Kruse.