Consumers will continue to seek value in 2013. That doesn’t mean they want the cheapest thing, said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant analyst for The NPD Group, but the best quality they can get for their money. Successful restaurants will be those that provide quality food to consumers at affordable prices, as witnessed by the success of the fast-casual sector.
Consumers will care even more about nutrition, but their perceptions of healthfulness are changing. “More consumers than ever before tell us that eating healthy and paying attention to nutrition is important,” said Darren Tristano, vice president of Technomic. “However, there’s a shift happening in terms of what actually defines healthy for them. We’re seeing more consumers gravitate toward health-halo claims — such as local, natural and organic, as well as whole-wheat and free-range.”
Back to the boomers
A lot of restaurants have been targeting Millennials, but it’s those folks born between the late 1970s and mid-1990s that have been most adversely affected by the job market, forcing them to cut back on restaurants visits. Instead, brands would be wise to begin marketing more heavily to baby boomers in 2013, said Riggs. They are continuing to work longer, are not cutting back on spending as much and have a greater need for convenience than ever before.
Growth in snacking will continue as around-the-clock dining moves closer to the mainstream and operators look for ways to build checks and meet Millennials’ hunger for group grazing, said Tristano. Street foods will inspire many small-plate offerings, and thoughtful infusion of “global flavors” will increase craveability — an important foodservice purchase driver. Fifty percent of consumers and 59 percent of younger men say cravings drive their dining-out decisions, according to a Technomic survey released in December. Also important in luring consumers in 2013: convenience, speed of service and fun. Sixty-nine percent of consumers said dining with friends contributes to a fun and memorable restaurant experience, Technomic found. And 70 percent of consumers say they like to order shareable meals to try multiple menu items.
In order to attract customers in 2013, restaurateurs need a new generation of deals, said Riggs. Consumers have grown used to lower price points and longtime promotions, making them the norm. For this reason, deal-related traffic will likely decline in 2013, forcing operators to tap their creativity to drive traffic. One marketing tactic that will continue to resonate: loyalty programs. Consumers want to be rewarded for their loyalty, especially the younger ones, Riggs said.