CHICAGO — With half of 2015 gone, Technomic research experts have taken stock of the market forces and menu trends emerging in the foodservice industry. Overall, consumers are filling restaurant tables at pre-recession levels; however, some dining habits that emerged during that belt-tightening period continue to influence how consumers dine out in 2015 and beyond.
“Midscale dining is doing better, but must keep reinventing and innovating to continue this path,” said Joe Pawlak, senior vice president at Technomic. “Fine dining has bounced back. Meanwhile, limited-service restaurants, especially fast-casual concepts, continue to bite into the casual-dining market, although there is market improvement in this sector.”
Technomic’s experts traveled to some of the nation’s noted restaurant cities and conducted first-hand research, interviews and surveys among operators, chefs and consumers. They combined their findings with qualitative data from Technomic’s Digital Resource Library and quantitative data from MenuMonitor database and Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report. They pinpointed six key trends:
1. Fast casual not slowing down. This segment continues to outpace all others, growing at 11%, compared to 4% among quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and 5.6% growth in casual dining.
2. ‘Build your own’ keeps building. Within the fast-casual segment, concepts built around customization are growing twice as fast as those that are not.
3. Cult status. Quick-service restaurants that are doing well—Chick-fil-A and Culver’s, to name a few—have developed clearly defined niches, achieved cult-like followings and garner higher check averages.
4. Subtracting the additives. Consumers are demanding to know the backstories on ingredient sourcing and processing; operators are responding with increased menu transparency.
5. Tech becomes necessary. Online ordering, mobile apps and table tablets fulfill two needs: appealing to millennials’ high-tech and high-speed preferences and supplementing service in a tight labor markets.
6. The new foodie norm. Food blogs, foodie media and foodservice everywhere mean everyone’s a culinary expert; dining needs to be an Instagram-worthy experience.
Chicago-based Technomic provides consumer-grounded research and consulting for food manufacturers and distributors, restaurants and retailers, other foodservice organizations and various institutions aligned with the food industry.