“Let’s keep the recovery going” was the rallying cry from the last government seeking re-election, it didn’t work too well for them at the ballot boxes but the fact that there is an upturn in the economy is some places on the island is undeniable. How can your business be ready to capitalise when the economy is booming? One area that must be looked at is your customers’ interest in high-quality menu items and ingredients.
Consumer-driven demand for higher quality food can be seen in all sectors of the foodservice industry from supermarkets to gastropubs. Elsewhere in this issue, we focus on the growth in demand for premium and gourmet burgers.
Report on Diners’ Behaviour
“Just as people now shop at an array of food retailers seeking new experiences and flavours such as local, organic, natural, and fresh distinctions, so too do they look for those experiences while eating out,” says Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group.
“Although traditional dining habits persist—for example, in the minds of diners, eating out remains tied to celebration – consumers have outsourced food preparation and now eat out as a daily habit. When that new behaviour is paired with our ongoing cultural fascination with global flavours, diet, and health, we see greater demand for menus with fresh, healthy, and sustainable options.”
The increased interest from the public in high-quality produce puts the onus on operators to make sure that their menu reflects this. According to a new report in the US, “Diners’ Changing Behaviors: Sustainability, Wellness and Where to Eat,” carried out by Changing Tastes and the Hartman Group, our dining habits are converging to include a heightened interest in sustainable menu options.
What the report found…
1: Forty-two percent of respondents indicated that they are receptive to sustainable and healthy possibilities within a wide range of restaurant and foodservice settings.
2: Sustainable-receptive diners are more frequent diners, eating out an average of 18 occasions a month in six different channels, compared to others who eat out 14 occasions a month.
3: Sustainable-receptive diners are also more likely to be Millennials, with children, more affluent, urban, and ethnically diverse.
4: Sustainable-receptive diners are health-focused and motivated to make what they believe are smarter eating choices, and many recognize the health benefits of making sustainable food choices.
“Today, restaurant and foodservice companies have to navigate unprecedented changes both in the cost of food and the values of the dining public, which now includes their health and the health of the planet,” says Arlin Wasserman, founding partner of Changing Tastes. “This report provides key insights into how to successfully bring these together on the menu, in the dining hall, and in foodservice operations.”
This increased demand for high-quality food in the quick-serve sector is reflected by the success of many US businesses which make sustainability and food quality their selling points. Five Guys, the Virginia founded burger chain, has expanded to 750 locations in the US and Canada as well as to our own island. Their selling point? Cooked-to-order burgers made with fresh, never-frozen beef piled with as many free toppings as you want. Shake Shack, a very similar concept to Five Guys, has moved from Madison Square Park in NYC to over sixty locations in the US and Middle East.
A Quality Supply Chain
Providing your customers with high-quality ingredients can be a challenge. In-N-Out Burger the Californian chain was initially limited in where they could open new branches by the distance they were from their own meat processing plant. If a potential outlet was more than 500 miles from where their fresh beef was prepared then it was not an option. They refuse to open locations where their own beef can’t be shipped fresh every single day. Eventually, a second plant was opened further east in Texas where people queued to get their first taste on Texan soil.
In a country as small as Ireland, distance isn’t a problem and we should make the most of this and supply customers with premium Irish beef from meat processing plants nearby.
The demand for high quality in quick serve restaurants is, of course, not confined to burger chains. The incredible growth of Chipotle Mexican Grill has been made possible by the desire of consumers for getting better quality food – one of their main selling points is the use of fresh ingredients and naturally raised meat. ‘Food with Integrity’ is their slogan and clearly, taps into their business morals. Free range chicken is something customers are prepared to pay a bit more for. These morals are also evident in the ever-growing success of sandwich chains like Au Bon Pain, Einstein Bros and Panera Bread which all offer healthier food options to their clientele.
Looking at these success stories will give businesses an idea of what kind of food will be in demand as the economy recovers. Taking lessons from them will ensure that your outlet gets its share of a fairer recovery.