While restaurants are seeing the gushes of pent-up demand, operators can still capitalize on the off-premises momentum that grew during the pandemic, according to David Portalatin of The NPD Group.
Portalatin, speaking Tuesday at the virtual 2021 Marketing & Sales Conference sponsored by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association, said restaurant demand is returning “but we still have a long ways to go to get to a pre-pandemic level.”
Portalatin joined other IFMA speakers in looking at the general restaurant market in 2022 as well as challenges in the supply chain.
The food industry adviser said one component of the pent-up demand remains home entertaining, and NPD is seeing robust sales continue in cookware, housewares and serviceware for the home.
“If you drill down into this you would see that margarita glasses are up something like 300% a year over year,” he said, “so a lot of you are out there hosting parties and renting a margarita machine to do that.”
Wine and other bar tools are also continuing to see increases in sales. Outdoor grills, smokers and cookers also continue to sell well.
“Think about the items in your portfolio and your channel partners who are relevant to that catering business or have that ‘wow item’ to make a statement at a party,” Portalatin advised.
“We're predicting that off-premises occasions are going to continue to outpace on-premises occasions,” Portalatin said of growth in the vaccine era. Thus, restaurants with drive-thrus, delivery, curbside pickup or dedicated to-go areas will continue to see sales strength, he said.
“There are a lot of ways to execute against this,” Portalatin said, “but think about the occasions that consumers are having and how you can bundle items together and create packages that are enticing to a consumer to take advantage of that need. I think that will continue to drive growth in the marketplace.”
While delivery has grown during the pandemic, it remains about 8% of the market, Portalatin noted.
“Carry-out is the much larger behavior,” he said. “I think the consumer is increasingly willing to own that last mile of delivery so there will continue to be momentum there.”
Digital ordering and capabilities will be the key to unlocking continued growth in this segment, he said.
“We're forecasting continued growth in digital ordering,” he noted. “Over the long haul, you're going see digital be very sticky and continue to grow.” Investment in digital tools will appeal to the those seeking to entertain in their homes, Portalatin noted.
Despite concerns about the coronavirus delta variant, Portalatin said, workplaces will continue to bring back remote workers.
“We have to think a lot about the workplace and think about how a traditional workplace generated certain occasions for breakfast [and] for lunch,” he said. “The working lunch, the lunch at your desk, the lunch out with colleagues — these things are just not going to fully come back quite to the level that they were.”
The question will be how restaurant operators can fill the workplace needs, he said.
“We just may not have it in the same place,” Portalatin said. “We may not have it at the same time. I think this creates opportunity again for some unique growth opportunities around that off-premises occasion.”
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