While stadiums and arenas across the nation can easily satisfy a fan’s craving for typical stadium fare – hot dogs, pizza, french fries – menu offerings are making a radical shift to accommodate more sophisticated taste buds; as today’s fans are demanding more from their experience than ever before.
Steven Brush, a consultant at nontraditional franchise consulting firm iBrandEz says, “Because of the downturn in the economy, people are much more cautious or selective … with how they’re spending their entertainment dollars, so stadiums and arenas definitely need to compete on the foodservice level with what consumers are seeing and getting on the streets. Hot dogs and hamburgers and french fries are king, but there’s a whole subset now that is looking for a better dining experience.”
Hospitality company Centerplate, with food and beverage programs in some 350 locations around the globe, has taken notice of the changes going on inside stadiums and convention centers – segmenting, researching and understanding this “new” consumer.
Des Hague, CEO of Centerplate says, “The family guy going with his wife and two kids needs value, particularly in this disposable income–distressed economy. The socialite wants a splurge event, a Super Bowl experience in every venue they go to, so they want high-end foods, they may want cocktails, they may want specialty drinks.”
While items such as pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers account for some 80 percent of Centerplate’s menu, the other 20 percent now features specialty and signature items they believe will one day be their top-sellers – such as popular ethnic offerings, healthful salads, high-end caffeinated beverages and creative desserts.
But how do you effectively communicate these new items to consumers?
The answer is Digital Menu Boards, which are quickly becoming the marketing tool of choice for concessions.
By creating enticing content – and utilizing elements such as day parting, audience targeting, product imagery, text animation, and message layering to name a few – concessions can attract and control consumer focus while pushing new menu items, and maintaining old favorites.
Digital menu boards also provide infinite marketing real estate because offerings can be changed based on foot traffic patterns, inventory levels and LTOs.
And to really make the most of their budget, concessionaries are pairing digital menu boards with static LED screens to create hybrid menu systems that offer a “recipe” for the best of both worlds – beauty shots of tantalizing food (on Lexan inserts), next to ever-changing menu boards that can feature video, commercials and even live TV feed of the game/event.
For decades, diet sodas have been the beverage of choice at QSR’s – especially for consumers counting calories, yet still craving carbonation with their burger and fries.
According to new figures from Beverage Digest, diet sodas have been experiencing a 10-year slide in the US. And despite the industry’s massive advertising assault, carbonated soft drink volume continues to decline year-over-year: 1% in 2011, 1.2% in 2012, 3% in 2013.
John Sicher, editor and publisher at Beverage Digest, commented, “The industry’s headwinds are not abating, and results are worsening…This puts a premium on sweetener innovation.”
As more and more consumers look to eliminate unnatural and processed foods from their diets, the fate of diet sodas might be sealed. These beverages often convey a negative connotation; the word “diet” leads consumers to believe they’re missing out on something good. But by utilizing words like “fresh” and “all natural” when promoting new beverage items, consumers believe they can feel good about their choices.
In fact, QSR’s have already started pushing new beverages – including freshly brewed teas and flavored waters – on their menu boards and promotional signage in an effort to get consumers to replace their diet soda.
In previous generations, women were often defined as mothers and homemakers who had little direct impact on the economy.
Mary Van Note, a partner of Ginger Consulting LLC (a Minneapolis-based branding firm), says that “Women are the CEO of the household. They often act as the chief purchasing officer. They purchase on behalf of themselves, but also their husbands and kids.”
Beth Perro-Jarvis – also with Ginger Consulting – continues: “It ultimately comes back to the multitasking prowess of women. They do everything—women tend not to focus on just one thing, like the home or their career. We’re not claiming men focus on one thing, but women do tend to be multi-taskers. They tend to take on multiple responsibilities.”
In addition, women make up 51% of the US population, and come with $7 trillion in spendable income. These factors have made it important for retailers to secure long-term loyalty with this very lucrative demographic. And with mealtime still often relegated to the female head-of-the-household, quick-serve and fast-casual restaurants are aggressively targeting women as they battle for market share.
Margot Dorfman, founder and CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce says, “Because women tend to be the caregivers in a family, they care about health. If you take a look at the woman’s role in a family unit, women tend to control purchasing decisions in the home, and they want healthy things for their children. That translates into many industries, but especially dining and foodservice.”
And QSRs/Fast Casuals are responding.
A study in the research journal Appetite reports that women believe eating their fruits and veggies will make them look younger and keep them living longer. This means that healthful menu items, fresh ingredients and customizable offerings are high on the wish list of female consumers. And anything high on the wish list of female consumers automatically makes it high on the QSRs’ priority list to appear on their menus.
But children today – particularly those under the age of nine – are becoming a rather influential demographic. Believe it or not, those first nine years are the time when long-term dietary habits are established and brand loyalty begins. Marketers are taking advantage of this demographic and the huge impact it has on the $639 billion US food and beverage market.
David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts research directors says, “Today’s kids are more marketing savvy and nutritionally conscious than any previous generation. They have input on the foods and beverages that their parents buy for them. And as any good marketer knows, the way to develop long-term customers is to hook them early in life.”
However, even though kids today are more active in their own choices, marketers still need to capture mom’s attention first.
Because they want to spend more time with their families instead of spending hours running errands, or preparing nightly meals, Millennial moms rely heavily on technology, especially social media, for just about everything from simple purchases to banking; in fact, they are much of the reason for the rapid explosion of sites like Pinterest and Instagram.
Therefore, if marketers want to succeed with this demographic, they need to have a presence in moms’ online world. Once mom is hooked, she will most likely pass that influence down to her kids and that is where the next generation of brand loyalty lies.
News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by QSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.
Many Americans are probably unaware of the new menu labeling regulations President Obama is spearheading through his “Obamacare” program – unless you’re part of the foodservice industry.
In an effort to combat rising healthcare costs due to obesity in children and adults, these regulations mandate that restaurants include the calorie count of the items they serve.
While it’s a noble effort, it begs the question: is it really the responsibility of our government to influence our nutritional choices and eating habits?
Obviously, many restaurant owners are less than enthusiastic over the newly proposed regulations – especially those needing to replace their existing menu boards with either new static boards (updated calorie counts included) or digital systems which allow for continual updating. Either way, replacing menu boards can be a costly venture.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which will be implementing these new provisions, estimates that first-year compliance could cost as much as $537 million for businesses regulated under the ruling.
With little to no hard data to substantiate the new regulations, restaurants are leery to comply…and with good reason.
A recent study was conducted on selected adults in Philadelphia, PA, where calorie labeling has already been mandated. The study found there was no change whatsoever in fast-food consumption; in fact, two-thirds of McDonald’s customers didn’t even notice the new labeling was in place. Similar results were obtained from restaurants in New York City, where the same study was conducted by an NYU Medical School professor.
And, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, it seems even our own government agencies aren’t completely sold on this idea: “The mixed results of these and other small-scale menu labeling studies suggest it is still too early to tell how restaurant calorie labeling will affect caloric intake.”
On one hand, this change plays to the psychology of the mind. Think about how our brain responds to retail prices reading $99 rather than $100. Somehow the brain actually believes it’s getting a better deal.
Which begs the question, in the absence of calorie counts on menus, is it possible that our brain doesn’t think we’re eating all that bad?
On the other hand, isn’t life all about personal responsibility and choices? Isn’t it the job of an adult to be responsible for him or her own self – and set good examples for their children?
Bottom line: burdening restaurants to include calorie counts on menus is probably not going to stop people from pairing a doughnut with their morning coffee or french fries with their Big Mac.