As digital technology evolves and consumers eat up the ease and convenience of the latest innovations, foodservice operations increasingly lean on virtual reality to lift sales.
More and more consumers these days have foodservice under their thumb—literally. In fact, so many foodies are feeding their need for the speed and convenience of restaurant apps, there’s been a 70% growth in usage, according to survey results from GlobalWebIndex.1
The consumer data and analytics firm found that among a cross-section of foodies (defined as people with a strong interest in food, restaurants or cooking), the percentage of consumers between the ages of 16 and 64 using apps rose from 20% to 34%.1 And the upward arc of usage continues.1
Quick service restaurants continue their shift into high gear, turbocharging sales and outpacing the competition.
According to the financial services company FirstData, QSRs surged high atop the dining segment in 2017 through 1Q18.1 The quick service category posted year-over-year growth of 6.6% in consumer spending—an especially impressive figure when compared with upscale dining, which declined 1.7%.1
It can seem a tall order for foodservice operators to thrive these days. Innovate or evaporate is a suitable mantra, given tight margins, rising labor costs and insistent consumer demand for speed, convenience and exciting new flavor experiences.
A prime example of the shifting foodservice landscape, the rise of subscription meal kits has delivered a blow to the bottom line, siphoning off $5 billion in market share1 and encouraging consumers to eat in and bypass takeout. And in-store meal kit sales from traditional retailers are surging too, jumping 26.5% last year to $154.6 million.2 Spending on meal kits is picking up speed at a rate 3x faster than other channels.2
Ups and downs may be par for the course for independent restaurants, but now they seem to be happening simultaneously.
According to the NPD Group, a leading provider of industry analysis and advisory services, independent restaurants are expected to spend about $39 billion with foodservice manufacturers and broadline distributors this year—even though unit count dropped 3% in fall 2017 versus a year earlier.1
Small world, big sales seems to be the rule of thumb for foodservice operators these days. According to the global information and measurement company Nielsen, consumer appetite for snacking is surging worldwide.1 Last year the snack business hit a sweet spot, serving up $3.4 billion in global growth.1
In fact, while America may be the land of the free and the home of the snack-happy, other regions of the world have pulled ahead in value growth. In 2017, Europe led the pack, with $905.93 million, followed by Asia Pacific at $895.65 million.1 The U.S., where snacking has become so popular 94% of consumers surveyed partake at least once a day,2 landed third in snack sales, racking up $750.56 million.1
Millennials are serving foodservice operators a feast of opportunities. In tune with technology, with a hunger for eating out and takeout, they’re at the forefront of the food revolution, driving such foodservice trends as farm-to-table and fast casual, according to Forbes.1
The millennial feeding frenzy has reached fever pitch, helping to drive a generational shift that has sent the percentage of consumers who dine out soaring from 25.9% in 1970 to a 43.5% in 2017.1 The trend took hold as more women entered the workforce and busy lifestyles made eating out a convenient option, with a cost differential often perceived to be negligible compared to cooking at home.1
Millennials have the fever for flavor adventures—and as the largest U.S. age demographic,1 they just may take the cake as tastemakers whose preferences influence snack selections found on grocery stores and menus around the country.
As a recent article in The Washington Post reports, millennials love to snack, and their tendency to bypass traditional meals in favor of grazing drives demand for an ever-expanding array of snack options.1 In particular, healthy options such as roasted chickpeas, chia seed pudding and popped sorghum have emerged from obscurity to take a star turn as better-for-you fare.1
In a youth-driven snack market hungry for menu innovation, alternative ingredients have been going through a prolonged growth spurt. Families with children drive the market, and as younger generational cohorts (and their buying power) grow, sales are likely to grow too.1
The popularity of alternative-ingredient snacks are on the rise as demand for better-for-you options steadily increases, particularly in the salty snack segment. The alternative-ingredient snack market posted a 7% growth rate in 2016—a faster rate than salty snacks as a whole.2
Breakfast and morning snacks are on a roll, serving up the sunny side of the foodservice business. In fact, according to the research firm NPD Group, it’s the only daypart that’s growing.1 With a one percent rise in restaurant traffic for the year ended February 18, breakfast seems to be hatching fresh opportunities at a time when lunch has been flat and dinner down a percentage point.1
If a one-percent rise in traffic seems like a slim slice of success, consider that breakfast is expanding rapidly beyond the morning daypart. Thirty-percent of consumers surveyed are purchasing breakfast items during later dayparts more often than they did two years earlier, according Technomic, a foodservice research and planning firm.2