Maeve E. Webster, director of research and consulting at Datassential, consults on and manages an array of client projects including market opportunity, brand equity and business opportunity assessments, attitude and usage studies, product and industry trend analysis, market size evaluations, and consumer behavior analysis. Additionally, Webster is on retainer with some of the largest food manufacturers, aiding in new product concept work and opportunity analysis. In this Q-and-A, Webster offers her take on ongoing and upcoming quickservice restaurant trends.
What upcoming trends do you foresee in the fast-casual and quickservice industries?
Innovation will continue to include ethnic flavors and formats presented both traditionally/authentically and in re-invented traditional American items. Health and wellness will continue to impact both segments, but the emphasis will be more on nutrition and balance rather than dieting and weight loss. Finally, both segments will be facing increased competition from the growing fleet of food trucks that are raising the bar on convenience.
What have been primary drivers of new restaurant trends in the past year?
Given the economic situation, restaurants have focused innovation on meeting consumers’ need for value-driven items. Keep in mind, however, that value does not always have to be the cheapest thing on the menu but rather an item that makes the consumers feel it’s worth the money. Consumers will pay more, even now, if you give them a good reason to.
What started the movement toward increasing breakfast offerings?
While more people now are eating breakfast than was the case about a decade ago, the share of those consumers eating breakfast away from home increased significantly prior to the economic downturn. Breakfast is the most inexpensive meal for consumers when dining away from home — which is true at all segments — and is a highly profitable venture often for the operator. Even with the economic downturn and high unemployment rates, people can afford to eat breakfast away from home more so than perhaps dinner.
How should restaurant owners and operators decide which trends are worth following?
First, an operator needs to consider how innovative they want to be. Are they a first mover and want to be on the cutting edge of trends or do they feel more comfortable waiting to see how trends play out in the market? When they decide what their competitive positioning is with regard to innovation, then identifying appropriate trends will be far easier.
What recent trends have you adopted? Which trends are you looking forward to exploring? Are there trends you regret following?
mlisager, via iStock