Skip navigation

Restaurants hungry for more snack sales

CHICAGO Restaurant operators are ramping up marketing and R&D efforts to grab more snack sales, but they continue to face a considerable challenge in that daypart from retail locations, according to research firm Technomic.

Astudy by Technomic found that more than half of consumers snack at least once a day, but those people purchase most of their snacks from retail outlets as opposed to restaurants -- 83 percent to 17 percent, respectively.

Darren Tristano, executive vice president at Technomic, thinks there is still room for restaurants to grow snack sales, either in their dining rooms or on the shelves of convenience stores and other retail locations.

“Growing snack consumption and the consumer’s broadening perception of what constitutes a snack are changing how operators and manufacturers should position this category,” Tristano said. “The greatest opportunities likely exist for packaged snacks and prepared offerings at retail locations and limited-service restaurants, although many full-service concepts seem to have room to market snacks as well.”

Restaurants in all industry segments have marketed products to snackers looking for menu items on the go and on the cheap. In casual dining and at upscale-casual restaurants, those efforts mainly try to entice people to snack at the bar. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar developed its “5 for $6 ‘Til 7” bar menu to build incremental business at its bars during off-peak periods, while Ruby Tuesday recently began selling $5 cocktails at the bar hoping guests would pair them with appetizers or Mini Combinations.

Quick-service chains long have developed handheld items that convenience-seeking snackers turn to, such as McDonald's Snack Wraps and Jack in the Box's Pita Snacks. McDonald’s expanded its popular Snack Wrap line late last quarter with the Mac Snack Wrap, a portable take on the Big Mac with a flour tortilla replacing the bun. Meanwhile, KFC is promoting its Boneless Filet item in a $5 Boneless Filet Box, served with fries and a drink.

Wendy’s also has begun to test bundling snacks, selling a Crispy Chicken Deluxe or a Double Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe with small fries and a small drink for $2.99, while Long John Silver’s recently rolled out its Popcorn Shrimp Snack.

Snacking isn't just limited to food, Technomic said. Caribou Coffee's new chocolate and mocha drinks, which are made with real chocolate, also appeal to snackers. This summer, competition for beverage sales between dayparts could heat up if McDonald’s locations in certain markets decide to sell beverages for $1, as had been speculated recently in The Wall Street Journal. And Sonic has long focused on beverage sales in the afternoon with its "happy hour" special of half-priced drinks.

The Technomic report surveyed 1,500 consumers in an online questionnaire, and the consulting firm found that 76 percent of consumers have changed their snacking habits in the past two years. Some other findings that the firm highlighted in its report included:


Forty-two percent of respondents said they usually skip one meal a day or replace one meal a day with snacks.

Seventy-four percent of snacking takes place at home, though consumers in the 18-to-24 age bracket are more likely to snack outside the home than other groups.

About one in five respondents, or 19 percent, have broadened their definition of a snack to include more types of food.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.