The currents reshaping the American dining-out market have no respect for geographic borders. Research released this week at the Global Restaurant Leadership Conference shows that the trends familiar to U.S. restaurateurs are far from unknown to operators throughout the globe.
The implication: U.S. operators with international aspirations won’t escape problems on the home front by jumping overseas, but neither will they be leaving the pan for the fire.
Here are three trends in particular that Technomic, Restaurant Business’ research sister, spotlighted for attendees of GRLC, a meeting of restaurant leaders with a worldwide growth perspective.
1. US lags in health trend
More than six of the last 10 restaurant meals purchased by a typical consumer in Asia were described by the buyer as “healthy,” the highest proportion found in the six geographic regions canvassed by Technomic. That compares with 4.7 out of 10 meals for the typical American diner, the researcher found, disputing the conventional wisdom that Americans are diet-obsessed. “I’m sure it’s Canada that’s dragging us down,” joked Technomic President and GRLC presenter Darren Tristano.
But health is no longer pegged to any single country or region, the data suggests. Technomic found that 41% of all humans have cut back on desserts. The same percentage has tapered its drinking, and 39% are ordering fewer appetizers.
2. Customization is now standard
No longer can Americans be disparaged as the world’s self-centered crybabies, ready to throw a tantrum if they can’t get their whims followed by a restaurant. Technomic found that one out of three restaurant meals served worldwide are adapted to a customer’s preferences. Thirty-three percent of meals sold by North American restaurants are customized, the same frequency found for Asia and slightly lower than the incidence for the Middle East (37%) and South America (38%).
3. Off-premise knows no boundaries
About half of the restaurant meals sold throughout the world today are consumed off-premise, according to Technomic. It found that the percentage of takeout meals is particularly high for Australia (41%), while the leader in delivery is the Middle East (30%).
4. Transparency can be seen everywhere
When Technomic asked consumers throughout the world if restaurants should be more forthcoming about the ingredients in their food, the proportion that said "yes" varied relatively little from region from region. North Americans had the lowest desire for more transparency, with 68% indicating they wanted additional disclosure. The desire was highest among residents of South America, at 75%.