As part of our mission to be the go-to resource for on-the-go restaurant industry professionals, Modern Restaurant Management magazine (MRM) offers highlights of recent research. This end of August edition features news about what people like in restaurants, delivery, drive-throughs, coffee, tequila and more.
People Really Like Restaurants, They Really Do
Results of the annual Gallup Work and Education Poll show restaurants continue to remain one of the most highly regarded industries in the U.S. Restaurants have ranked as one of the nation’s most highly regarded industries since Gallup started its annual poll of consumer perception of industries in 2001.
“Restaurants are the beloved cornerstones of communities across America,” said Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “America’s one million restaurants provide opportunity to 14 million Americans and have become an essential part of our everyday lives.”
According to National Restaurant Association research nine in ten consumers say they enjoy going to restaurants and two in five consumers say restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyle. One half of all adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point during their lives and one third of all Americans got their first job working in a restaurant.
As the nation’s second largest private sector employer, restaurants continue to be economic drivers, employing nearly 10 percent of America’s workforce.
In addition, more than nine out of 10 restaurants are actively involved in charitable activities. Collectively, the charitable contributions of the nation’s one million restaurants are estimated to reach up to $3 billion each year.
Gallup asks Americans to rate industries on a scale from “very positive” to “very negative.” The computer industry is second to restaurants. Gallup stated that the restaurant industry continuously scores so highly because they offer Americans “enjoyment and efficiency.”
People Don’t Like Bad Delivery Service
Technomic Inc.’s recently completed On Demand Delivery: Disrupting the Future of Foodservice study confirms that even if restaurants have a formal agreement with third-party ordering portals and delivery services, the majority of consumers (76 percent) hold the restaurant at least partially responsible for any errors.
“This puts operators’ brand reputation at risk each time a customer orders delivery through these services,” says Melissa Wilson, a Principal at Technomic Inc. “Even if delivery is not a current strategic initiative, operators should educate themselves about and understand the dynamics of the third party delivery market so they can put guardrails in place to maintain quality and brand reputation.”
The On Demand Delivery study helps operators and third-party delivery services interpret the evolving dynamics with this distribution channel to strengthen their ability to create effective strategies for capitalizing on this emerging trend, devising plans related to the potential impact on operations, product mix and store design or developing their own delivery offering.
Additional findings from this study include:
- Third-party services are generating additional business for casual dining restaurants and other concepts that do not offer delivery: More than a third (34 percent) of third-party users reported ordering from casual dining restaurants and 14 percent had ordered from family style restaurants that do not offer delivery on their own.
- Chain restaurants are almost twice as likely as independents to receive delivery orders: Two thirds of delivery orders either placed directly with a restaurant (69 percent) or via a third-party service (66 percent) were from a chain restaurant.
- One in five third-party service users ordered a burger: Although pizza still dominates the restaurant delivery space, third-party service users are taking advantage of the wider variety of options available and ordering items that restaurants have hesitated to offer for delivery themselves.
People Like Drive-Throughs
Eight out of 10 U.S. consumers (83 percent) have enjoyed a meal or a snack at a restaurant drive-through this year, according to a Frisch’s Big Boy Restaurants nationwide survey.In one key finding, the survey shows that Americans crave flexibility. Seven out of 10 consumers (70 percent) said they’d order a burger for breakfast. More men (82 percent) would order a burger for breakfast than women (58 percent).
Here are other drive-through secrets revealed by the survey:
- 42 percent of Americans said that other than speed or convenience, the main reason they choose the drive-through is they just don’t feel like parking and walking inside. That far outdistanced the next closest response – I don’t feel like dealing with people (16 percent). Other reasons were having kids in the car, being on the phone and not being dressed appropriately.
- A much higher number of 18-to-24-year-old millennials, 31 percent, said they use the drive through because they don’t feel like dealing with people.
- There are two kinds of people, those who check the bag and those who don’t. Those who never leave the window without checking are the majority, at 53 percent. Just 35 percent said they trust the drive-through attendant to get the order correct.
- The split is far more even on the eat-in-the-car versus wait-until-you-get-there issue: 39 percent eat in the car, 35 percent wait.
The Frisch’s survey shows that Americans are sold on exchanging pleasantries, but not sold on drive-through upselling. Fifty-nine percent of consumers said they are appreciative if the attendant asks about their day, versus just 14 percent who don’t like to chat, while 38 percent said they prefer not to be asked if they’d like to order additional menu items, versus 34 percent who appreciate being asked.
Get nervous ordering at the drive-through? Nearly six out of 10 Americans (59 percent) said the drive-through menu is hard to read, especially when there is a line behind them.
Other highlights from the drive-through survey:
- 57 percent of consumers said extra condiments or sauces are the items they most often request at the drive-through; napkins followed at 52 percent. Fifteen percent requested water or ice.
- 25 percent of consumers said they feel satisfied when they eat in the car, while 25 percent said they feel sloppy when they eat in the car.
- 70 percent said their parents allowed them to eat in the car.
- 56 percent said the meal they’re most likely to visit the drive-through for is lunch (27 percent dinner, 17 percent breakfast).
At Frisch’s, the drive-through service now accounts for 30 percent of overall revenue. Additionally, drive-through sales have been on the rise for the past five years at the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana locations. The Frisch’s survey had 523 respondents and was conducted across the United States from August 2 to August 5. Respondents were males and females over the age of 18.
People Are Growing to Like Pay-At-Table Technology
E la Carte, Inc., creators of the Presto™ Smart Dining System™ for full-service restaurants, partnered with Professor Alex Suskind, associate professor at Cornell School of Hotel Administration, on a research project related to guest experience with table-top ordering, entertainment and payment devices.
The study, conducted over 23,640 guest checks, 13,476 responses, and 21 restaurants, highlights the rising trend of self-service technology in restaurants and how it positively impacts the guest dining experience. In addition, the study notes that guest-facing tabletop technology is becoming widely accepted by consumers, with many guests reporting they are more likely to dine at a restaurant containing this technology.
- 83 percent of guests reported that a tabletop order and payment device increased their likelihood to return to a restaurant
- 79 percent of customers stated the Presto™ Smart Dining System™ improved their dining experience, citing convenience, ease of use, and credit card security as some benefits of using the technology
- More than 70 percent of customers who used the Presto System during their meal reported a positive experience
- The study also found a direct correlation between positive guest sentiment toward the device and an increase in server tip percentage.
“We are seeing a phenomenon take place in the restaurant industry. Restaurants are shifting their service model and guests have more on-demand expectations,” said Susskind. “Technology such as the Presto System will play an integral role in how restaurant brands engage and interact with their guests.”
“Adoption of customer-facing tabletop technology will continue to penetrate the casual dining industry. Restaurants will eventually be compelled to embrace this technology to avoid losing customers who prefer to order and pay via tabletop technology,” said Dr. Ben Curry, PhD, chief data scientist at E la Carte. “As E la Carte continues to disrupt and revolutionize the restaurant industry, we aim to bring an exceptional guest dining experience and provide a fully integrated and easy-to-use solution for restaurants.”
People Like Vodka and Tequila
U.S. consumption of distilled spirits is forecast to rise 2.2 percent annually, reaching 580 million gallons in 2020 – a rate of growth almost three times faster than that of the U.S. population. “Vodka and tequila are expected to post the fastest growth among the major segments of this market,” says Erica Keenan, market analyst for Freedonia Focus Reports. “Producers of these spirits will benefit in part from a flourishing US cocktail culture inspired by retro-themed television shows such as Mad Men.”
According to Distilled Spirits: United States – a newly published report from Freedonia Focus Reports, a division of The Freedonia Group – vodka will remain the largest segment in terms of volume, bolstered by its widespread use in cocktails. Demand for this spirit is forecast to rise 3.7 percent annually to 2020.
Similarly robust gains are expected for tequila, due in part to the growing Hispanic influence on U.S. culture. In fact, the Hispanic population is forecast to rise more than 2.6 times faster than the general population, and celebrations such as Cinco de Mayo are becoming more widespread. Orders of the tequila-based margarita – already the most popular cocktail in bars and restaurants – more than double on this holiday each year.
The versatility of tequila will benefit all tiers of the market, from value to superpremium brands. While many consumers enjoy tequila at various price points in margarita form, many high-end varieties are gaining in popularity as beverages to be sipped and savored “neat”.
Since tequila, by definition, must be produced in Mexico, the widespread popularity of this spirit among U.S. consumers will continue to drive vigorous advances in trade, predicts Fredonia. Tequila imports grew 5.0 percent per year, on average, between 2005 and 2015.
People Really Like Coffee
Coffee drinkers are more likely to be morning people and generally happier with their lives than non-coffee drinkers, reveals a new survey.
Those who drink coffee at the start of their day are 13 percent more likely to be happier in the morning. More coffee lovers consider themselves to be health conscious than non-coffee drinkers, even though non-drinkers are more likely eating breakfast in the morning as well as eat three meals per day. Coffee lovers have an easier time falling asleep at night, as more people who don’t drink coffee say they find it hard to fall asleep at night.
The poll of 1,000 people across the country conducted by Café Don Pablo found that 77 percent of Americans drink coffee regularly, with 59 percent saying they drink it every single day.
Of those who love their cup of joe, 57 percent say that coffee increases their level of productivity at work. In fact, they claim it ups their productivity by an average of 41 percent. One in five coffee drinkers say they are more likely to get into a fight with their significant other if they haven’t had their regular amount of coffee. However, 43 percent of coffee drinkers define themselves as happy people as opposed to 39 percent of non-drinkers.
People Like Comfort Food
Consumers are more interested in comfort food than they were last year and are searching for a different type of feel-good food. A national consumer survey and Pinterest insights reveal that consumers are moving away from traditional comfort foods in favor of meals that are healthy, locally sourced and easy to prepare. The research also shows that Americans (68 percent), and especially parents (74 percent), are more concerned about what goes into the food they’re feeding their families compared to previous generations.
According to the national survey commissioned by Foster Farms, 73 percent of consumers have changed their opinions about the food they feel good about eating. Eighty-one percent of consumers care more about the quality of ingredients, 83 percent choose healthier recipes, 81 percent eat more fruits and vegetables, and 63 percent seek more meat and poultry raised without hormones and antibiotics. Eighty-three percent of Americans said that chicken is a staple for comfort food meals with half of respondents eating less red meat. These shifts reveal that today’s comfort food cuisine features fresh and premium quality ingredients, including antibiotic-free and organic poultry and can be cooked quickly at home.
Pinterest insights confirm that comfort food is a hot topic online and that consumers prefer a more health-conscious incarnation:
Over the last year, people saved nearly 50,000 comfort food ideas every day to more than 14 million boards, a 140 percent increase from the previous year.
“Veggies” is the most popular word accompanying comfort food Pins.
Chicken is the most popular protein on Pinterest, as consumers are increasingly focused on leaner meats. In the last year, 35 million people saved 566 million chicken ideas on Pinterest, a 32 percent increase from the previous year, and more than eggs, peanut butter and beef combined.
Traditional comfort foods are on the decline, including lasagna (down 69 percent), macaroni (down 55 percent) and stroganoff (down 50 percent) over the last year.
In addition to being highly selective about comfort food ingredients, the survey identified unique cooking habits of millennials:
50 percent of millennials seek inspiration for recipes from social media, compared to 34 percent of older generations
24 percent look for online video recipes, compared to 15 percent of Gen Xers
41 percent share food they cook on social media at least a few times a week, compared to 24 percent of non-millennials
61 percent rely on recipes, compared to 54 percent of non-millennials
77 percent of millennials try new recipes at least once a month, compared to 65 percent of non-millennials.
People Like Cheese
Cheese remains a staple of the American diet, but its odor, mess and difficulty to preserve deters most from cooking with it, according to Yellow Door Creamery’s “Cooking with Cheese at Home” survey. Among the findings:
Nearly 90 percent of consumers feel that cheese enhances the overall taste and presentation of a dish.
More than 80 percent of respondents ate cheese either every day or multiple times a week, yet over 60 percent claimed to avoid cooking with it at home due to its lack of taste and messiness.
70 percent of consumers said they would cook with cheese more often if those negative qualities were somehow able to be avoided.
People Like to Eat their Calories
In today’s increasingly health-conscious society, Americans are inundated with ways to improve their well-being yet many still seek opportunities to indulge a little. In fact, according to a new survey commissioned by Southern Breeze Sweet Tea and conducted online by Harris Poll, 86 percent of U.S. adults say they like to balance healthy eating with indulging every once in a while. And when it comes to choosing between foods or beverages, there’s no question: 87 percent of Americans would rather eat their calories than drink them.
This sentiment is consistent among Southerners (87 percent), a culture known for its rich foods like mac and cheese and high calorie beverages like traditional sweet tea. The survey found, however, that over seven in ten adults (72 percent) look for ways to reduce their sugar intake. And despite a tendency to gravitate toward food splurges, the survey revealed that finding good-tasting healthy swaps for favorite foods and beverages is important to over three quarters (76 percent) of Americans.
Even sweet tea drinkers agree that a healthier option for their favorite drink would be ideal: 62 percent would be willing to substitute a no-calorie sweet tea beverage for regular sweet tea in order to indulge in other foods/beverages.
Other insights revealed by the survey include:
Adults aged 35+ are more likely to prefer to eat their calories than drink them than Millennials (89 percent vs 81 percent, respectively).
Women appear to be more conscious about finding healthy swaps for their favorite foods and beverages, as nearly four in five (79 percent) say it is important to them, compared to 72 percent of men.
Adults aged 55+ are more likely to look for ways to reduce their sugar intake than those aged 18-54 (80 percent vs. 67 percent).
College Kids Really Like Ranch Dressing
From crazy combos to critically important news that finally puts the ranch vs. bleu cheese debate to rest, EatStreet’s kicking off college with data science that really matters: Students’ back-to-school ordering habits.
Thanks to EatStreet researchers, the world now knows: Macaroni salad is ordered more often than cinnamon sticks. And cream cheese is added as a pizza topping (yes, this is a thing), more than mushrooms and jalapeños combined.
Pepperoni remains the king of pizza toppings, reigning supreme year in and year out. Veggie lovers, though, are making a push for the top spot nationally, trailing the champ by only 10 percentage points.
As for ranch vs. bleu cheese? It’s not even close. Ranch gets 70 percent of the orders, while bleu cheese pulls in 26 percent.
“EatStreet caters to college towns, giving us good insight into what – and when – students are eating,” said Matt Howard, CEO and co-founder of EatStreet. “Nothing brings people together like food – and probably beer – which is why we’re highlighting what students are eating. It’s easy to throw a great party when you know what everyone likes to eat.”
People Like Food Gifting
People are increasingly choosing to send the gift of food, according to Packaged Facts in the brand new report Food Gifting in the U.S., 5th Edition.
Since 2010, consumers have continued to expand their usage of food gifting across occasions and food gift types. Food gifts are given not just on major holidays such as Christmas or Easter or on special occasions such as graduation or birthdays, but are also being sent “just because” or in celebration of typically less beloved “Hallmark holidays”. Moreover, Packaged Facts’ data suggest that average spend per food gift and the number of intended food gifting recipients is on the rise.
Packaged Facts forecasts U.S. consumer and corporate food gifting sales will approach $18 billion in 2016, up 3.5 percent from 2015. Of this amount, the majority is attributed to consumer sales, which Packaged Facts expects to rise 2.5 percent in 2016.
Meanwhile, corporate sales are expected to rise four percent. Corporate food gifting presently enjoys noticeable momentum as it is buoyed by positive employment trends and corporate gifting giving and gift spend trends. Corporate food sales are also benefitting from companies creating gift baskets designed specifically to appeal to those in the business world.
By a wide margin, boxed chocolates/candies remain the most prevalently chosen food gift that people purchase for others, with some 28 percent of food gifters purchasing boxed chocolates/candies for someone else in the past 12 months. Other relatively widely purchased food gifts include sweet baked gift foods, coffee/tea/hot chocolate gifts and nut/salty snack gift foods.
Packaged Facts found that by occasion, among adults age 18+, the winter holidays are a food gifting mainstay. Almost half of those who have purchased food gifts for others have done so for the winter holidays, while 32 percent of those who have purchased food gifts for themselves have done so for these holidays. Birthdays and Valentine’s Day are also very popular food gifting occasions, according to the report.