5 Surprising Consumer Food Trends for Restaurants

Food Trends

A new study finds that restaurant customers value quality food more than price and promotions.

Smart restaurant owners are always on the lookout for new consumer behavior.

When you’re quick to know food trends you can adapt to customer demands.

My goal this week was to find out what trends might influence my clients.

Some of the results were unexpected!

Here’s are the latest foods trends…

1. When it comes to value, quality trumps price

Usually we think of price as a top deciding factor for the average consumer. Recent research by the NPD Group shows otherwise.

Studying a diverse group of consumers, they found that quality and freshness of food tends to be more important that pricing and deals. (tweet this)

The restaurant customers were divided into five groups – “Deal Hunters,” “Budget-Conscious Explorers,” “Big Eaters,” “Foodies,” and “Restaurant Regulars.” The last two groups care the most about factors like freshness and service quality, while the first three are looking for low prices and big portions.

You may be surprised to learn that even in these tighter economic times, the “Foodies” and “Restaurant Regulars” made up the majority (58%) of the NDP’s subjects. Not only are these groups in the majority, but let’s remember that they’re willing to spend more – and more often.

The takeaway? Don’t lose your most valuable customers by compromising quality to offer lower prices.

2. Consumers are defining “healthy” food differently

It’s no surprise that people are demanding more healthy dining options. What is interesting is how consumers are defining “healthy” when they look over your menu. Research is showing that “low-fat” and “sugar-free” options are becoming less important to consumers. They’re being replaced by more holistic terms like “sustainable” and “natural.”

It’s all part of appealing to consumers who are more educated about where their food comes from. We can thank the Internet and documentaries like “Food Inc” and “Supersize Me” for this!

To appeal to today’s health-conscious consumers, start by working these four concepts into your menu:

  • Gluten-Free
  • Organic
  • Local
  • Sustainable

Research from Technomic has shown that consumers’ interest in the above criteria has risen by  20-50% since 2010!

3. More consumers are looking for diversity and cultural connections

It makes sense – the population is growing more diverse with immigration, and people are learning more about diverse cultures.

Restaurants that feature diverse and “exotic” ingredients are catching on to this trend. Offering fusion cuisine is one approach, or simply incorporating non-Western tastes. “Regional” menu items are getting more popular too – recipes that can be associated with a specific place and community.

It’s all about the story or identity behind the food.

Start thinking about how your menu reflects diverse cultures and tastes. Feature recipes and ingredients that originated from several parts of the world (they can be grown locally). Be creative as you expand your menu’s scope!

An important note here – Increasing diversity doesn’t apply as much to ethnic “niche” restaurants like Japanese or Italian fare. For these places, diverting from your specific cuisine niche may actually have a negative impact. Instead, ethnic restaurants should focus on appealing to consumers’ growing demand for authenticity.

4. Food trucks are on the rise!

Food Trucks Trend

The food truck business is expected to increase sharply in the next few years!

Mobile restaurants have become popular alternative to brick-and-mortar establishments.

The growing availability of food trucks that offer high-quality and even gourmet options may be responsible for this. Trucks are combining local, fresh food with lower prices and quick service, and consumer are loving it! Fewer consumers are associating food trucks with greasy take-out.

The National Restaurant Association estimates that U.S. food truck revenues will increase from $650 million in 2012 to $2.7 billion in 2017. See more recent food truck stats this report. (tweet this)

Are you a food truck owner looking to take advantage of this trend? See this recent post for some food truck mobile marketing ideas.

5. Mobile and online ordering yields higher value purchases for restaurants

Again, it’s no secret that consumers are turning more to internet and mobile devices – but did you know these types of orders are averaging higher totals than traditional channels?

This fascinating infographic shows that mobile and online orders are on average 30% higher than the industry average ticket. When people go online to order your food, they’re more likely to opt for bigger, more expensive portions.

Another useful piece of information – restaurants see an 11% increase in orders per month when they enable online and mobile ordering.

We’re lucky to have access to quality online research in today’s restaurant industry.

Take advantage by incorporating these 5 trends into your business model!

Restaurant Engine can help your optimize your restaurant’s site for mobile devices and online ordering to cash in on these stats!

Photos by Main Course 101 and Orlando Sentinel

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  • Dave

    Great material as usual, great presentation on everything you do. Brian, how do I contact you?