Trend Tracker

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Despite spending less at restaurants, customers are still ordering appetizers at an exponential rate. In a slow economy, appetizers are easier on the wallet and two can be combined to make a meal. What's more, they offer diners an opportunity to explore flavors and ingredients; appetizers are offered in every cuisine and take form in various shapes and sizes.The variety of starters on menus is one of the hottest trends on the restaurant scene right now—so much so that entrees are taking a back seat to small plates.
Do customers really eat the low-fat, low-calorie, low-sodium foods they claim they want restaurants to serve? According to the 2010 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report developed by food industry consulting group Technomic, almost 50% of the 1,500 consumers surveyed claim to want healthier foods, but only 25% actually consider nutrition when dining out. Here are some of the report’s other interesting findings:
After a 4% decline in 2009 and another 3% decline in 2010, lunch daypart sales are set to rebound 2% to $114 billion in 2011. Unemployment and the economic slump caused budget-conscious consumers to cut back on lunch spending in restaurants, but creative marketing and unique offers are spurring them to come back. Fast-food operators with lunch menus in the “extremely affordable” category have sustained the industry and helped it bounce back during the recession.
The Latino cuisine market is still seeing double-digit growth, garnered by the rapidly expanding Hispanic population in the United Sates as well as increased interest by non-Latino fans of the food. The ingredients and boldly flavored dishes appeal to an American interest in something different and continue to be favorites of an Hispanic population that is growing out of metro areas to smaller markets.
The aging Baby Boomer population wants to stay healthy—and they’re willing to pay for it. Packaged Facts, a division of MarketReserach.com, released a new report, Healthy 50+ Americans: Trends and Opportunities in the Emerging Wellness Market that details how today’s seniors view aging and wellness. The report defines “Healthy 50+ Consumers” as Americans 50 and older pursing a wellness regime that includes exercise and healthy eating habits. The report counts 26 million Americans in this category.
Patrons may grumble when restaurants raise food prices, but they seem willing to spend more for better service. According to a survey of 500 consumers from American Express MarketBriefing, diners would spend more money for pleasant atmosphere, cleanliness and friendly staff than they would for healthier menu items or freshly baked bread.
Foodservice catering is gathering strength and rebounding, and the forecast looks bright through 2012. Signs of recovery began in 2010, due to aggressive expansion into the catering space by limited-service establishments, the return of business event-driven spending and a healthier consumer outlook.
Frozen desserts comprised 28.4% of all desserts on the menus tracked by Technomic in the first half of 2010.Vanilla and chocolate ice cream dominate the category, but frozen yogurt, frozen custard, gelato and sorbet are winning over more and more fans. When it comes to offering frozen desserts on menus, there are several key factors that make them sell.
A loud restaurant creates an unpleasant dining experience, at least according to results of a recent survey by American Express MarketBriefing. While many dislike din of any kind, most tolerate music better than other types of noise. The survey also found women especially sensitive, with 62% saying that too much noise adds stress to the meal.
In a recent Technomic survey of 1,500 consumers, 70 percent said they eat dessert at least once per week away from home. The Dessert Consumer Trend Report goes on to explain how restaurants can capitalize on this interest and boost incremental dessert sales.
Hispanics make up 16 percent of the U.S. population, according to 2010 census figures. This group makes 9.8 billion restaurant visits a year, but how and when they visit depends on their primary language. Recent NPD foodservice research revealed the following differences:
The government's recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans puts a strong emphasis on increased consumption of produce. In fact, consumers are encouraged to "make half their plates" fruits and vegetables. Eating more fruits and vegetables is a key factor in three of the four recommendations made by the Dietary Guidelines Committee: