With the economy improving (rising 5% in 2014’s third quarter), 2015 is projected to be an innovative and successful year for QSRs. And as always, with the New Year come plenty of “new” things – new resolutions, new promises and new trends. Here’s a brief overview of new trends that are slated to have a significant impact on QSRs in 2015.
Mobile Technology: Almost everything in our lives is affected by technology – from where we shop to where we eat. Savvy QSRs are beginning to capitalize on this fact to better connect with consumers; enter, mobile ordering (and paying) via an app. Customers can download a free app and gain access to ordering at their fingertips.
Taking Health in Your Own Hands: One of the top trends in the foodservice industry today is health. Health is one of the first things on a consumer’s mind when choosing the restaurant they visit. With that, customization is becoming more important than ever. And now that the FDA has finalized its menu labeling rules, consumers will be able to see just how healthy their food choices really are.
Gen Z is Leading the Way: We already know that Millennials regularly dine out and are willing to spend more money to get the quality food they demand. What restaurants and QSRs will now focus on is the next generation – Generation Z. More reliant on technology, Gen Z wants just as much diversity in their food choices, if not more, than Millennials.
Expecting Local: Another food trend predicted for 2015 is an uptick in sourcing local food and ingredients. The idea that the ingredients in a meal are coming from the same local area as the restaurant provides a perception (and most likely, a reality) that the food is fresh – and we know fresh food is a must for consumers.
Spice it Up: 2014 was the year of Mexican QSRs such as Qdoba and Chipotle, but 2015 is predicted to be the year of new food and flavors. Vietnamese, Filipino, and Korean food are projected to greatly influence the flavors in the foodservice industry this year.
Food is Going to be Everywhere: If you’re not in the foodservice industry- you should be. According to the predicted foodservice trends of 2015 retailers, such as convenience stores and pharmacies, are advised to fill any available space with food. This will keep customers in the store longer and provides the convenience of food or drink while they’re on-the-go.
Go Green and Stay Green: “Going Green” is a trend that has ultimately transformed into a lifestyle. In turn, consumers have begun to expect more from restaurants that make sustainability claims. Reducing a business’s impact on the environment (sustainability) also includes finding ways to significantly reduce waste. One example of this in the restaurant industry is the nose-to-tail movement, in which the entire animal is used instead of just the choice cuts, therefore reducing waste.
Beverages are In: Beverages have also made the trends list. No longer will you find plain soda machines in restaurants. Consumers are now given hundreds of beverage options with the touch of a button thanks to new beverage technology. In addition to various sodas and juices, many restaurants are also offering specialty teas and coffees.
Turn up the Heat: Along with new flavor trends comes heat and spice. Restaurants are using bold flavors in their dishes – influenced by multicultural cuisines – to spice up existing dishes and to create new ones.
Since the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, restaurants and diners alike have been eagerly waiting for the FDA to finalize the menu labeling rules required by the act. After nearly 5 years, the FDA has finally officially mandated the new rules.
So what does this mean for the foodservice industry?
It is now required that chain restaurants with 20 or more locations openly display calorie information on menus and menu boards next to the name and/or price of each item. Food facilities within entertainment venues, such as amusement parks and movie theaters, are also applicable to the new menu labeling rules.
The reason behind the new rules? According to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”*
Prior to the new rules, some restaurant chains had already implemented their own menu labeling; however, this labeling varied from state-to-state and was not well-regulated. And while the 1990 Nutrition Labeling Act established labeling on most foods, it did not establish labeling in restaurants or vending machines.
And the FDA did not limit labeling rules to just food… restaurants are also subject to label the calorie content of certain alcoholic beverages as well.
Now that the FDA has established mandated rules, restaurants and entertainment venues subject to these rules will need to follow uniform requirements to meet these federal standards; they have one year to comply.
Don’t know where to start? VGS makes it easy. We can update, retrofit or replace your existing menu boards.
For years, QSRs have reigned supreme at reflecting what consumers want out of a meal – fast and tasty. However, consumer tastes have continued to evolve and now they want more; “fast and tasty” has been replaced with “fast and fresh.”
And while QSRs scramble to accommodate this elevation in taste, convenience stores – traditionally viewed as a quick stop for just snacks and candy – are stepping up and offering fresh, made-to-order options in order to meet consumers’ growing demands.
C-stores may think they’re raising the bar…but what do actual consumers think?
According to a CivicScience poll*, 53% of consumers feel that made-to-order food from a convenience store is of equal or higher quality than that of a fast food restaurant. To reinforce that fact, both Sheetz and GetGo convenience stores (supermarket chain Giant Eagle) feature “fresh food prepared on-site (sandwiches, salads, etc.) that puts the pre-wrapped items of days past to shame.”
In addition to the advancement in food quality, c-stores are using technology to further consumer satisfaction. “Some stores even have touchscreen ordering kiosks, where you can punch in your customized food desires.”* These digital touchscreens allow customers to easily order fresh sandwiches, soups, and more.
In addition, c-stores are also installing self-checkout touchscreens, giving consumers a fast, easy checkout alongside a fast, fresh meal.
These advancements in ordering technology are not just about pleasing customers; they also allow c-stores to compete with fast food restaurants in terms of service time.
So while QSRs are upping the ante by advertising healthier meal options, c-stores are giving them a run for their money with both freshly-made options and time-saving technology, while quickly shedding the stigma that consumers have to sacrifice food quality for quick service.
The health food trend is steadily on the rise; and with health being a top concern, consumers want the food service industry to reflect those concerns in their menu offerings.
According to CSPnet.com* and data from Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics (CBM)**, “…a majority of consumers say it’s important for restaurants—even quick-service concepts—to ensure that they [offer] healthy options.”
So regardless of whether consumers choose healthy options every time, it is crucial for restaurants to at least give them a choice.
Unfortunately, consumers are finding that restaurants are doing only an “okay” job of offering healthy options.
In the LSR (Limited-Service Restaurant) category, Jamba Juice was given a 68% rating in regards to its availability of healthy options, followed by Jason’s Deli with 66%, and McAlister’s Deli with 63%.**
In the FSR (Full- Service Restaurant) category, The Cheesecake Factory was rated at 54%, following Bonefish Grill which was also rated at 54%, and Bahama Breeze with 51%.**
Colleen Rothman, Consumer Research Manager at Technomic Inc. says, “On average, less than half of consumers rate restaurant chains as very good on the availability of healthy options on their most recent visit.”
Rothman goes on to say that, “These ratings reinforce that there’s no single approach to health that universally resonates with consumers, giving each operator the freedom to explore healthier menu choices in a way that makes sense for its brand.”
Only time will tell if restaurants will continue to step up to the growing health food demands of their consumers.
NACS online recently posted an article entitled “Chipotle Cultivates ‘Thought’ on Packaging.”
Struggling to stay relevant, restaurants can either follow industry trends, which may yield some increases in overall business, or they can try something truly unique.
Chipotle is doing just that. Their new restaurant packaging is part of an overall program which features original essays by influential thought-leaders, authors, actors and even comedians.
The program – created in partnership with author Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Eating Animals, Everything is Illuminated) – is meant to be an extension of Chipotle’s overall company mission to tell its unique story by engaging customers with thought-provoking ideas and cultural issues.
Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle, says that, “Packaging in fast-food restaurants is typically sold to advertisers, or used to promote new limited-time menu items, but we have never used our packaging that way.
Instead, we have used it to entertain our customers using wit, humor and design. Following in that tradition, our new packaging allows customers to connect with a great selection of entertaining and thought-provoking authors they may not otherwise have encountered.”
Crumpacker goes on to say, “We live in a world in which there is shrinking space for literature and writing, and less time than ever for quiet reflection. The idea of expanding the space and time, of creating a small pocket of thoughtfulness right in the middle of the busy day, was inspiring to me – particularly given the size and diversity of the audience, which is America itself.”
In short, Chipotle is trying to inspire society, even in a small way, in the hopes of creating a better tomorrow for everyone. A noble and noteworthy effort indeed.