Restaurant Operators Use New and Unique Flavors to Respond to Consumer Demands Without Breaking the Bank, Finds Technomic

December 29, 2011

Restaurant Operators

Restaurant Operators Use New and Unique Flavors to Respond to Consumer Demands Without Breaking the Bank, Finds Technomic

CHICAGO, Nov. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — A precarious balance has been struck in the restaurant industry, with prices being held as low as possible to attract frugal consumers, while rising commodity costs chip away at profit margins. A new study by Technomic shows that current market forces are making craveability and culinary expertise increasingly relevant to consumers, many of whom say they are more interested in experiencing new flavors as they dine out.

“There is only so much you can do with pricing until your profit margins disappear. So you have to look at other ways to differentiate your brand,” says Technomic EVP Darren Tristano. “Incorporating unique flavors into existing menus can be a low-cost and easy way to grow sales and attract new customers. In our newest study, 42 percent of consumers said they are more interested in trying new and unique flavors, compared to a year ago. So keeping the focus on food taste and flavor is a powerful long-term strategy.”

To help those aligned with the foodservice industry in keeping a pulse on flavor trends infused during food preparation as well as those added through sauces, dips and condiments, Technomic has developed the 2011 Flavor Consumer Trend Report.

Interesting findings include:

Of consumers surveyed, 53 percent said they would be more likely to visit a restaurant that offers new or innovative flavors, up from 42 percent of those surveyed in a 2009 study.
It’s no surprise that classic Italian flavors dominate the pizza landscape. But a look at the menus of emerging limited- and full-service pizza chains reveals that sweet, hot, smoky, spicy and fruity flavor profiles are also top flavor varieties for pizza, helping to differentiate signature offerings.
Leading all other options, more than four out of five consumers (81 percent) say that preparation style is an appealing way for restaurants to add flavor to their food. Year-over-year data suggests that flavors imparted by preparation style have increased in popularity by 11 percent between 2009 and 2011.
Flavors imparted by spreads, sauces or condiments that come with food are appealing to 61 percent of consumers, an 8 percent increase from those surveyed in 2009. This indicates an opportunity for continued development of signature house-prepared sauces and spreads.

Technomic’s 2011 Flavor Consumer Trend Report examines flavor preferences, attitudes and purchasing behavior based on survey results from more than 1,500 consumers. Data from 1,000 Canadian Consumers is also available. The Menu Insights section utilizes Technomic’s exclusive MenuMonitor trend-tracking tool to provide an in-depth look at how leading, independent and emerging chain operators are incorporating top flavor profiles into menu items. Along with major entree categories, the report contains in-depth explorations of beverage, dessert, snack and appetizer dip flavor preferences.

Menu and consumer data from Technomic’s 2009 Flavor Consumer Trend Report is also discussed throughout the report to provide deeper insights into emerging flavor trends. An appendix to the report shows how the top 10 most frequently menued entree flavors are being used on menus. Demographic profiles of consumers who enjoy these flavors for entree sauces are included in those appendixes.

View the full article on PR Newswire

Restaurant Lessons from Retail – Gift Card Incentives

December 14, 2011

With the season of giving upon us, restaurant operators continue to aggressively promote their gift cards. Even with the increasingly difficult methods of accounting for gift card sales, restaurants are wise to provide incentives to their customers in order to build future traffic and amass pre-paid revenues.

But what will make customers want to “act now”? Is it the convenience of not needing to think about what to buy for others, investigate ideas and spend time shopping for gifts? Wanting to share our favorite place to dine with others? Or more likely, is it our own desire to give ourselves a gift in the form of that little added bonus of 25 extra dollars with every $100 in gift purchases? In any event, gift cards can be a good alternative to giving unwanted gifts that need to be returned after the holidays.

Most bonus gift-card promotions provide a longer-term payoff and have restrictions such as not being valid until after the holidays or only good for redemption Sunday through Thursday. But why not incent an immediate benefit? Some would argue a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Take note of Old Navy’s current gift card promotion in which customers who purchase $40 or more in gift cards receive an immediate 15% discount on their current retail purchase. On a $100 purchase, you receive $15 off instant savings against a $40 purchase.

Restaurant operators who provide an immediate benefit to customers will likely see increased impulse-driven sales with less revenue to defer to the next year and ultimately provide greater value to their customers.