This year, health and healthy are expected to continue to be top of mind for consumers, and menu innovation from main dishes to beverages will drive the CPG category. A recent article from QSR Magazine discusses predictions for the top food trends in 2013:
- Going Local – Customers increasingly view “local” as a positive attribute. Local sourcing is a “macro trend that will maintain its momentum,” this year, says Joy Dubost, a registered dietician and director of nutrition and healthy living for the National Restaurant Association.
- Healthy kids’ meals – Healthy and creative kids’ meals will continue to make an impression on the industry. These efforts aren’t just appealing to parents—kids are becoming more comfortable with healthier food choices as well. Suggestions include substituting grilling for frying and introducing options that kids can relate to.
- Economic struggles – Although quick-service restaurants have been climbing out of the recession, operators will have to continue to work to overcome barriers, says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst for market research from NPD Group. Chicken is predicted to have an increased presence on the menus because its price is projected to remain stable.
- Snacks as meals – Around-the -clock eating is becoming more common and customers are demanding smaller and flexible portions to accommodate these habits. Many QSRs have already moved toward snack options, e.g. McDonald’s Spicy Chicken McBites LTO, KFC’s Chicken Little sandwiches, and Sonic’s Cheesecake Bites.
- More fruits and veggies – QSRs are moving past potatoes for french fries or tomatoes and lettuce on a burger with fruits and veggies taking on a starring role. Options like spinach, broccoli, edamame, mushrooms are available at salad chains like Freshii and Tossed, and are likely to show up on a wider range of menus this year.
- Gluten-free options – Thirty percent of all adults say they are cutting back and trying to avoid gluten and these people are looking for more dining out options. It doesn’t appear to be a trend, but more of a long-standing desire and it will be wise for restaurants to adapt their offerings.
- Trickle-up trends – Traditionally food trends start in fine dining and end up in quick service, but now that trend is reversing. “Fast casual will be the way of the world this year,” says Andrew Freeman, founder of Andrew Freeman & Co. He believes limited-service brands will be leaders in new menu items during 2013.
- Ethnic foods – Exploration beyond Chinese food has led to a desire for Thai and Vietnamese, just as those who favor Mexican have moved toward the flavors of South America. As the customers’ palates continues to broaden, restaurants will need to expand menu offerings that play on these flavor desires.
- Innovative beverages – Fruit and vegetable juices are showing strength. Fun, new drinks are worth looking into, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Starbucks has expanded its Evolution Fresh bottled juices beyond West Coast markets, and they intend to add standalone Evolution Fresh stores that offer made-to-order juices.
- Evolving around health care – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will take full effect in 2014, which means operators will have additional paperwork and higher costs associated with day-to-day operations. This year, the industry will likely face more consumer and legislative pressure to make changes to the size of beverages and add calorie counts on menu boards.
What is your take on these trend predictions? Do you see any other emerging trends that are worth noting in 2013?
Photo credit: Arvind Grover
Five years, in the ever-so-quickly-advancing restaurant industry, can bring about serious change. Let me remind you all that half a decade ago, Five Guys was mostly a regional player and Chipotle was just starting to make headlines with its promise of sustainable food.
Well, a lot has changed since then. Now Five Guys is a national force in the better-burger category and Chipotle has influenced the locally grown food movement well beyond its own category.
The point is, restaurants in their infancy today could be the leaders of tomorrow, propelled by a new kind of customer—one that is dependent on social media, a survivor of the recession, and interested in global flavors.
So what’s in store for the industry in the next half-decade? According to QSR Magazine, here are five segments with major potential:
- The Eco-Burger—Meat-loving Americans beloved burger will go through a little transformation according to Liz Aviles, vice president of market intelligence for Upshot. Imagine an evolution from the “better burger” to the “cleaner burger.” This will not only be a burger better for your body but more eco-friendly and better for the community. Aviles went on to say that chains like Chicago-based Epic Burger will claim the moral high ground in the next five years with fewer preservatives and a strong sustainability message.
- Asian Meets Fast Casual—Although there are quite a few upscale Asian restaurants, there is still a market for the fast casual sector. Eric Giandelone, director of foodservice research for Mintel, compares the situation to that of Chipotle a few years ago when there was a clear divide between higher end and lower end Mexican dining options. “Chipotle kind of changed that by offering that in-between. The same is kind of true with Asian food right now,” says Giandelone. It appears that Chipotle founder Steve Ells is taking what he’s learned about Mexican food and applying it to the Asian food market with his recent launch of the fast casual ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. Similar concepts including Chutney Joe’s Indian Diner in Chicago and Merzi in Washington, D.C. have plans to expand to other markets.
- Fresh Juice—Aviles says Starbucks’ latest offering, the Evolution Fresh juice bar, is a taste of what we will be seeing in 2017. “Starbucks’ Evolution Fresh is a harbinger of more concepts to come,” Aviles says. “It’s a juice and food experience. I think that’s the key.” At Starbucks, the price point is high and the company is branding the experience as “super-premium,” but customers are willing to spend more if they feel that they’re doing something good for themselves as Aviles explained.
- Build-Your-Owns—Robotics, touch-screen ordering, and customized orders will become an increasingly conventional part of the quick-serve experience. Jeremy Umland, founder and CEO of Ozumo Concepts International launched the u-sushi concept which combines customization and technology. Modern-looking machines deliver a fresh sheet of rice as customers watch the process of their sushi being made. As restaurants continue to integrate high tech, more and more customers are going to be placing their own electronic orders and will be able to watch their food be made by robots.
- International Invasion—The U.S. is becoming more open to new concepts and tastes. John Gordon, president and CEO of the Pacific Management Consulting Group, and Aviles point to the changing tastes of a younger generation. Restaurants based abroad such as South African chicken restaurant Nando’s and Guatemala’s Pollo Campero, each have several U.S. locations. “In the United States, the population has become much more diverse,” Gordon says. “We are not a typical extended suburban nation anymore.”
Keep your eye on these five over the next five.
Photo credit: Mr. T in DC
Many QSRs of late have shifted their product mix and subsequent marketing efforts to focus on fresh, quality ingredients. Most notable is Wendy’s, who recently launched “Wendy’s Way” to showcase consumer choices and the benefit of quality ingredients and fresh preparation. While Wendy’s has the scale to roll this out in a big way, there are many localized establishments that are built around this premise and serve fresh, high quality ingredients to customers every day. One such establishment in the southern suburbs of Kansas City is Unforked.
While some may not think of Kansas City as a restaurant mecca like larger cities, there certainly are many gems. With one location, Unforked has established itself as a quick serve with a commitment to quality and innovation. They put a stake in the ground and judging by the packed house on a recent Saturday afternoon, it’s resonating with consumers.
Unforked’s mission and core values are simple and to the point:
- To provide unparalleled flavor, high quality ingredients and nutrient-packed options for diners (dine in, catered and drive-thru) in a quick service environment.
- Practice sustainable innovation in all areas of operation.
- Provide quality meats and culinary care equivalent to the White House or a Five Star restaurant.
- Take full responsibility for the food we serve.
- Provide transparency regarding food origins and menu item ingredients so diners can make informed food decisions.
- Buy, promote and support local ingredients first.
All aspects of the business reflect the promises above. The décor is sleek yet comfortable and inviting. The menu is unique and innovative and the food is colorful–it pops against the neutrals of the décor. It all screams “fresh” and if you go on to their website, you can see which local farmers and businesses they support.
Unforked doesn’t have a multi-million dollar advertising campaign behind it, but that fits right in with the character of the brand. They know why they do what they do and their actions are convincing enough. Unforked is an example of a one-chain restaurant, adding some good to the world.
Do you know of any larger QSRs or fast casual chains following the same principles?
The return to Americana is a cultural movement characterized by the celebration of all things American. Americana refers to cultural artifacts, cooking, art, architecture, and history that distinctly reflect the US culture. Norman Rockwell paintings. Apple pie. Red, white and blue. Anything vintage America is up for grabs.
Throughout history, we’ve seen that recession and conflict overseas have a tendency to band people together under shared interest and struggles, reinforcing national pride. Over the past couple years, a love affair with American heritage has grown and been fostered through various industries as Americans rediscover the history, diversity and culture of their country. To see this movement in action, the fashion industry is a great place to start as they’re leading it with vintage full skirts, cat-eye sunglasses, acid wash denim, Native American prints, leather fringe bags and American flags.
As chefs and foodies rediscover the diversity of American cuisines/ingredients, interest in American regional cooking and food traditions will continue to grow. The annual National Restaurant Association survey, What’s Hot in 2012, cites several top food trends that fall within the Americana Movement. These should be watched closely as many will ultimately filter through to the QSR world.
- Locally sourced meats and seafood and locally grown produce
- Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
- Farm/estate-branded ingredients
- Food trucks/street food
- Soul/comfort/Southern cuisine
- Artisan cheeses, specialty bacon, ice cream, spirits
Within the QSR industry, the appeal of Americana is not confined to the menu. It also comes through in the store design and the experience. Sonic Drive-In, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Five Guys Burgers all provide an experience that provides homage to simpler times.
The diverse nature of this trend makes it one of the most promising food industry trends over the next decade. It’s simply a renewed appreciation for American culture.
Photo credit: ginnerobot
The National Restaurant Association has identified some big trends that they anticipate will be hitting restaurants during the next year, according to a recent article in QSR Magazine. These trends were determined from a survey that was conducted with nearly 1,800 professional chefs in the American Culinary Federation. The survey findings show that we can expect to see an increase in locally sourced products and a focus on healthy/nutritious kids’ meals.
Neither one of those trends is new to anyone within the food industry as we’ve seen these areas grow over the years, but it looks as though they will be at an all-time high during 2012.
The locally sourced trend will focus on everything from meat and fish to fruits and vegetables to alcoholic beverages. The idea is for restaurants to support the members of their local business communities while highlighting seasonal ingredients.
Kids’ meals will focus on healthy side dish options, nutrition and whole grains. As attention to the healthiness of kids’ meals continues to grow, so does the awareness of nutrition overall. 55 percent of survey respondents said they’d offer a wider variety of healthier sides (fruits or vegetables) as a way to add more fruits/vegetables to Americans’ diets, while 19 percent said they’d add more produce to existing recipes and 16 percent would follow the MyPlate visual guideline where half the plate is used for fruits and veggies.
Many restaurants have already started to identify and work toward adopting some of these trends, but we can expect many others to jump on the local and healthy bandwagons in the very near future.
Photo credit: Natalie Maynor
Burger King is banking on some major revamping, including their core customer target, menu strategy, and advertising, to reverse their negatives sales trends. Their new management is looking beyond their core customer of 18-35-year-old males and typical flow of $1 value menu promotions by shifting focus to healthier food items to attract female customers.
Following McDonald’s lead in recent menu changes, Burger King is testing more than a dozen new products in markets across the country, dropping lower quality menu items in lieu of smoothies, oatmeal, and higher quality burgers as reported by restaurantnews.com.
“As we develop new products we’re focusing on best in class and quality,” said Jonathan Muhtar, vice president of global innovation. “In the past there were compromises made with our food for ease of operation and to take costs out of the product. Food quality and taste has to come first. Consumers come to Burger King because we’ve traditionally stood out for having great tasting food.’’
With the addition of these new products, the world’s second largest burger chain may become better known for imitation than great tasting food. Many of these products are very similar to the already existing healthy offerings under McDonald’s “Made Just for You” platform such as mango smoothies and Asian chicken salad as reported in a recent article by the Miami Herald.
Will consumers be turned-off by their mimicking ways or will Burger King win them over with their hope of delivering a tastier version than McDonald’s?
“They’ve got to give consumers a reason to come back and that’s not a me-too version of McDonald’s,” said Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a Chicago-based restaurant consulting firm. “They need something that’s truly more innovative and a differentiated sandwich that gives you a reason to go there.”
Not only is Burger King saying goodbye to some of their products but their iconic mascot, the King, is on hiatus from all advertising. With their attempt to attract a broader audience and focus on quality, Burger King is walking away from the edgy marketing to concentrate on showcasing the food as Tony Versaci, president of the National Franchisee Association said, “When you don’t talk about your food there is no real reason to come into the restaurant.”
Will this dramatic overhaul pay off for the restaurant chain by drawing in a more diverse customer base or do they risk driving away the young males who nearly live off of fast food?