Every detail counts when creating a brand and conveying that message to the customer — right down to the choices on the table, say restaurant operators.
“Our guests are reading labels and looking for things that are familiar,” says Sam Rothschild, chief operating officer of Slim Chickens, a fast casual chain based in Fayetteville, Ark., with more than 30 locations in five states. “They want to see something that is of good quality.”
If your concept is promoting a quality dining experience, consumers expect to see better products on the table, whether jelly, hot sauce or creamer for their coffee, says Robert Maynard, chief executive and founder of Famous Toastery, a Charlotte, N.C.-based breakfast and lunch concept with a dozen locations. Tabletop products include dairy and non-dairy products for coffee and hot teas.
“What you use should speak to your brand,” Maynard says.
The right tabletop products not only reflect the brand, but are easy to stock, maintain and meet customer demand for quality, flavor choices and efficiency, say operators and industry observers.
“It’s not surprising that consumers often look for their favorite brands when eating out, and offering popular brands right on the table can be a powerful way to build both traffic and guest satisfaction,” says Patricia Poole, category marketing manager for Nestlé Professional Beverages.
“In fact, according to a Lieberman Research Worldwide study, 72 percent of loyal Coffee-mate® users say they will actually walk past an operation that doesn’t offer Coffee-mate® to get to one that does have their preferred creamer,” she adds.
However, operators should evaluate how much or how often consumers use tabletop products, notes Dennis Lombardi, president of Insight Dynamics, a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant advisory service. They need to determine the value to customers and the operation if they are going to give up valuable tabletop real estate to condiments, sauces or other products.
“Is there enough demand to justify table placement?” he asks. “For example, fish and chips may be on the menu, but if that’s only 4 percent of sales, it may not be worthwhile putting malt vinegar on the table.”
Paying attention to preferred products and flavors helps in choosing the right tabletop products. For example, when it comes to liquid creamers, the top three flavors are vanilla, hazelnut and caramel, according to a survey by Chicago-based research firm Datassential.
Of those consumers surveyed, 77 percent use cream or sweetener, or a combination of both when drinking brewed coffee away from home. And of those who use a creamer, 66 percent opt for a flavored liquid product.
“When they are at home, they are less likely to use a flavored option, but away from home, they are dialing up the flavor,” says Mark DiDomenico, director of client services for Datassential.
Restaurant owners and managers also need to evaluate the upkeep of tabletop products when choosing brands, Poole says.
“Operators know that it’s important to keep tabletops and the products on them clean and fresh,” she says.
Both restaurant owners and customers appreciate pre-measured, single-serve products such as the Coffee-mate® Liquid Creamer Singles, she says. The tubs have a 9-month shelf life and do not require refrigeration, so they’re very easy for restaurant staff to maintain. They are available in nine popular flavors as well as two seasonal flavors.
“That means far less waste and more time to cycle through product so you can offer customers the flavor and variety they’re looking for,” she says.
The Coffee-mate® non-dairy creamers are lactose free, cholesterol free, gluten free and Kosher dairy to meet a variety of needs of today’s consumers, Poole adds.
Single-serve tubs also provide a convenient creamer solution for consumers on the go, which helps quick service operators who have self-serve stations. They also offer an advantage for fast casual or full service concepts tapping into the increasing popularity of grab and go, particularly during the breakfast daypart.
Annual morning snack occasions per person, in and away from home, increased by 17 percent over the past six years, according to The NPD Group, a research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y. Convenience was a key factor for restaurant breakfast occasions.
“In addition to convenience, name-brand products also allow customers to personalize their orders,” Poole says. “Along with our popular single-serve tubs, Nestlé Professional Beverages offers a convenient tabletop Liquid Creamer Pump so there is a branded format for every tabletop need.”
And when it comes to addressing the needs of today's demanding consumers, there is often no better way than leveraging the inherent strength of brand power.