13 Foodservice Trends Changing Your Business for Good

FARE leaders detail "baker's dozen" seismic shifts in consumer behavior

Published in CSP Daily News

By  Jennifer Bulat, Director of Editorial Production

Kay Segal (left), Abbie Westra

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- "It's a consumer's world. We're just living in it."

When you look at it that way, it's easy and exciting to digest--pun not intended--the 13 overarching trends in foodservice offered in the opening general session of FARE 2014, which began Monday at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine, Texas.

Leading attendees through the trends were CSP Business Media's Kay Segal, senior vice president of continuing education; and Abbie Westra, editor in chief of Convenience Store Products magazine.

"The bottom line is that we all look to satisfy thirst and hunger," Segal said.

And here are the trends affecting those satisfying moments, beginning with a "seismic shift" in consumer behavior, as the two called it:

  1. The growth in off-premise foodservice sales is staggering. Seven in 10 foodservice purchases today are consumed off-premise, according to the National Restaurant Association. That's a complete flip from how meals were consumed 50 years ago, Westra said.
  2. Immediate consumption is on the rise. This second seismic shift is evident in the fact that 15% of meals purchased are consumed within one hour of that purchase. "Consumers expect convenient yet high-quality foods around every corner," Westra said. "How do you capitalize on that?" Food items that are portable, include all utensils and cater to the nature of immediate consumption may lure in those consumers. 
  3. Another seismic shift: Half of all eating occasions are snacks, according to The Hartman Group, but only 6% of those snacks come from foodservice, Segal said. Most healthy snacks are consumed earlier in the day, when folks have more willpower. Can you promote smaller portions as snacks? And could you bundle a sandwich with a snack for later in the day?
  4. Forty-seven percent of all eating occasions consist of a single person eating alone. According to the U.S. Census, only 51% of adults are married. Can you lure that singleton with customizable meals, or offer communal tables for folks who want to join a group?
  5. There's a huge generational divergence in baby boomers vs. millennials. For example, restaurant visits by millennials have decreased 6% since 2008; baby boomers' increased by that same amount. In 16 years, millennials will outnumber non-millennials. How can you appeal to both? They're equally focused on wellness. Which brings us to …
  6. All hail the rise of mindful eating. Nearly three-fifths of consumers "think a lot" about the healthfulness of their foods and beverages, according to the International Food Information Council. And functional foods are something that consumers want, especially in our frantic society. Can you give them a protein boost?
  7. It's organic. Three in four consumers purchase organic foods, according to The Hartman Group; sales are now $3.5 billion a year. "Organic took off when its positioning changed from 'save the planet' to 'save yourselves'," Segal said.
  8. Affordable luxuries rule the day: Consumers now take the time to treat themselves with items such as a $4 Starbucks drink or $6 cold-pressed juice, Westra said; luxury no longer merely refers to rich people. How can you fulfill that need for indulgence?
  9. Rise of the technology disruptors. More than 50% of consumers say it's important for restaurants to integrate technology into their ordering capabilities, according to Technomic. Mobile ordering and touch-screen interfaces in restaurants are no longer the next big thing. They're what consumers demand, especially when it comes to customization. Focus on what your operation and yours alone can offer to consumers.
  10. The influence of e-commerce. Do you subscribe to services such as nibblr or Birchbox? Do you know about New York-based Melissa's Cupcakes? If you've never been there, no worries: Just sign up for the Mini of the Month club, and cupcakes will show up at your doorstep like clockwork.
  11. "The breakfast scramble" and you. Burger King now has burgers for breakfast, McDonald's is offering breakfast at all hours of the day and Taco Bell is now a breakfast player. Who will win? Again, it's the consumer. "It's all about freedom of choice," Westra said, "and consumers have always had the upper hand."
  12. The flavor forecast calls for "big, bold, authentic." In the past 12 months, there has been a 12% increase in the term "hot sauce" showing up on all foodservice menus, according to Food Genius. And it's a generational common ground: Millennials like adventurous flavors, and boomers need more spice as their taste buds dull. 
  13. There's a new brand value. You have to stand for something. Value is no longer merely about price; it's about social responsibility, transparency and interaction; 63% of consumers say they're more likely to visit an operation if it's socially conscious.

"Whoever in this room delivers on these 13 needs and trends will win share of stomach and dollar growth," Segal said.

Follow FARE 2014 on Twitter at #FARE14 and #CSPnet.

By Jennifer Bulat, Director of Editorial Production
View More Articles By Jennifer Bulat