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Consumer Trends

2012 trend book: Growth

How do you spell “opportunity”? Nontraditional locations, self-service catering, pop-ups, trucks, kiosks, retail products—that’s how.

“We’re looking at a real, long-term shift in the consumer mindset,” says Robert J. Nyman, president of The Nyman Group Ltd. “Age and demographics no longer define where you go, because that’s not what’s driving behavior. Now it’s daypart and price point.”

“It’s all about expanding the brand,” says Melissa Wilson, a principal at Technomic, pointing to offsite strategies like catering food trucks and pop-ups, as well as retail. A great example of the trend is Butcher’s Son food trucks. Rather than opening traditional locations, food-industry scions Jon Wagner and Dain B. Pool have teamed up to launch a fleet of the food trucks, designed as the first-ever national mobile brand. With two in operation already in Dallas, the duo plans as many as 200 of the sausage-and-sandwich dispensing trucks in motion by 2014.

As for retail opportunities

  • Texas Roadhouse, known for its free buckets of crave-inducing unshelled peanuts, has begun selling this branded, packaged signature at Thorntons gas and convenience stores in five southern and Midwestern states. “They’ve been a tremendous brand-builder for us,” says spokesman Travis Doster,” and we plan on making them available to local operators to use in their own marketing.”
  • Tucker Curtin, owner of three restaurants in Buffalo, is planning to turn a shuttered local food-processing plant into a USDA-certified meat plant to cut, grind, cook, cure, smoke and package a variety of specialty products for his own use and sale to others.

Nontraditional business models and locations 

Alternative business models and locations are emerging that allow for more flexibility as well as shared investment.

  • UMAMIcatessen, set to open inside L.A.’s downtown Orpheum Theatre next year, will house five different restaurant concepts by different operators, including a new Umami Burger and Chris (Iron Chef) Cosentino’s Pigg.

Then there’s the tactic of carving off part of an existing location to create an additional, different venue, or repurposing it for a different daypart.

  • Marty Fosse, the owner of Acre in Chicago, will be turning one room of the American restaurant into Ombra, a Venetian-style “bacari” bar.
  • The owners of the dinner-only Bresca, in Portland, Maine, will open the site as Bresca Day for serving pastries, sandwiches and other light meals to the local neighborhood.

And other nontraditional locations

  • New York City restaurateurs Drew Nieporent and Jean-Georges Vongerichten are lending their names and culinary chops to the array of foodservice offerings (Daily Burger and Simply Chicken, respectively) at the newly renovated Madison Square Garden.
  • Mariposa Bakeshop and Café in Oakland, California, has snagged a coveted in-line location in San Francisco’s tourist-packed Ferry Building, after operating a kiosk there.
  • Airports have become another opportunity for foodservice. “Changes in security and in the amenities that airlines are offering means travelers are spending more time before and between flights in the terminal,” says Kevin Westlye, president of San Francisco-based High Flying Foods, which operates Firewood farm-to-table grills and cafes in two area airports [fig. 12]. “That makes for more opportunities for local operators”—including the partnership High Flying has made with Peet’s Coffee & Tea to open two of the environmentally responsible coffee outlets in SFO’s new LEED-certified Terminal Two.

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