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Consumer Trends

7 key consumer types

…and which 3 you need to focus on.

Hover over the image for links to the 7 consumer archetypes.

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Every restaurant operator wants to understand today’s consumer—who they are, what they want, what drives their purchasing decisions. But to see the full picture, it’s no longer enough just to look at gender, age, ethnicity or income.

“Segmentation by traditional demographic groups is becoming less useful as consumers create their own unique identities and usage patterns based on [diverse] attitudes, beliefs and preferences,” says Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic. More actionable, she contends, is understanding and grouping diners in a new way: by their habits, their needs and what motivates them.

Meet the new American diners—seven eater archetypes for today’s times. Here, we offer a deep dive into these groups, created by Technomic, including the latest data and insights on where the opportunities lie for operators.

Three of the seven personas—Foodservice Hobbyists, Functional Eaters and Busy Balancers—together make up more than half of restaurant consumers; it’s these people who use restaurants most. To meet the needs of these key customers, it’s crucial to know how they view restaurants and what they want out of the experience.

Busy Balancer

Foodservice Hobbyist

Functional Eaters

Affluent Socializers

Bargain Hunters

Habitual Matures

Health Enthusiasts

 

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Busy Balancer

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Anna is confident that she has her act together. She feels good about her diet, her financial situation and her family. This millennial multitasker thrives on stress, and makes time to exercise, eat right and socialize. A good job, a working spouse and an upper-middle-class income help her to have it all. She’d like to cook for her family, but makes healthy choices when dining out, whether grabbing breakfast on the way to work or ordering dinner online on the way home.

Opportunities for operators

  • Delivery is an indicator of good value to Busy Balancers, likely due to their on-the-go lifestyles. They’ve also increased their use of delivery over the last two years.
  • Protein is part of a balanced diet in their eyes, and they’re more likely than any other group to eat meals that include meat, poultry or seafood. About half, however, think vegetarian meals are healthier, so healthy verbiage on the menu may resonate.
  • Portable desserts are a sell at both full- and limited-service restaurants. This group also grabs desserts as snacks or meal replacements, so a convenient location might persuade a Busy Balancer to make a dessert-only stop.
  • Heavy reliance on foodservice makes a strong menu and high-quality beverage program a must to build loyalty among Busy Balancers. 

Frequency of visits

 BreakfastLunchDinner
Percent meals at foodservice334135
Number of foodservice occasions per person annually120151130

Share of meal occasions

What they eat

Busy Balancers give the highest ratings to:

  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Jamba Juice
  • Texas Roadhouse
  • Potbelly Sandwich Company
  • The Cheesecake Factory

These chains see more Busy Balancers than other chains:

  • Brio Tuscan Grille
  • Bahama Breeze
  • Pollo Campero
  • The Capital Grille
  • Seasons 52

Busy Balancers are more likely than other consumer type to get afternoon snacks from limited-service restaurants. Late-night snacks at limited-service spots are more popular among Functional Eaters

This is a highly mobile group that relies on foodservice for all types of occasions with virtually every contact found in their smartphones. Although convenience is extremely important, they also expect restaurants to be comfortable and inviting, as they use them as social outlets.” —Robert Byrne, manager, market insights at Technomic

Source: technomic


Foodservice Hobbyist

Functional Eaters

Affluent Socializers

Bargain Hunters

Habitual Matures

Health Enthusiasts

 

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Foodservice Hobbyist

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Meet Fran. She’s enjoying middle age, now that the kids can fend for themselves, by working a part-time job and spending quality time with friends, often at restaurants. Lunch might mean a familiar neighborhood place, but dinner is a chance to try something new and have a unique experience while socializing. Because they like to eat out frequently, and they’re mostly middle income, Fran and her friends might split an entree or decide where to go based on a special promotion.

Opportunities for operators

  • Appetizers, small plates and sides play well with Foodservice Hobbyists, who order these items more than any other group as a way to try a new dish, often sharing with tablemates.
  • Food safety is a concern, as are animal-treatment policies and environmental issues. They’ll pay more for healthy callouts on the menu, such as “natural,” “sustainable” or “locally raised.”
  • It’s not all about meat. They are the most likely group to say that meals do not need to include meat, poultry or seafood; think “plant forward.”
  • They’re looking for value at breakfast, even though it’s when they eat out the least. Filling dishes that suit a range of tastes may encourage greater frequency. 

Frequency of visits

 BreakfastLunchDinner
Percent meals at foodservice142724
Number of foodservice occasions per person annually529988

Share of meal occasions

What they eat

Foodservice Hobbyists give the highest ratings to:

  • The Capital Grille
  • Schlotzsky’s
  • Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza
  • Pinkberry
  • Firehouse Subs

These chains see more Foodservice Hobbyists than other chains:

  • Panera Bread
  • Romano’s Macaroni Grill
  • Bonefish Grill
  • P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
  • Logan’s Roadhouse

Different groups use chains differently. For example, Foodservice Hobbyists are heavy users of Wendy’s for afternoon or late-night snacks, whereas it’s a more popular choice for Health Enthusiasts at lunch and Busy Balancers at dinner.

As Foodservice Hobbyists pay very close attention to detail, menu cues for regional ingredients, well-defined and executed preparations, and social responsibility all resonate. Value is communicated to them through these attributes. Unique and interesting menu offerings, a new twist on classics, plating with flair and an overall dedication to ‘personality’ will generate excitement.” —Robert Byrne, manager, market insights at Technomic

Source: technomic


Busy Balancer

Functional Eaters

Affluent Socializers

Bargain Hunters

Habitual Matures

Health Enthusiasts

 

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Functional eaters

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To Martin, food means fuel. Low-income and struggling to make ends meet, he’s working as much overtime as he can get. Meals and snacks are eaten on the go, often in the car or break room, and whenever time allows. Trying the next new thing or worrying about nutrition or ingredient sources isn’t a priority; even price takes a backseat to convenience and just getting through his stressful day.

Opportunities for operators

  • Promoting drive-thru and easy takeout features such as curbside pickup might pique their interest. They’re fickle, but serve their needs and they’ll become loyal customers.
  • Larger portion sizes signal overall value. Emphasizing more food and combo meals may play to their value-minded, food-as-fuel sensibilities.
  • There’s promise in mobile technology. The option to place an order and pay remotely and seamlessly may boost both loyalty and satisfaction.
  • In-your-face discounts could trigger a sale, given that Functional Eaters don’t enjoy spending money on food, but also don’t have the time or patience to look for deals. Integrating offers into mobile technology, where this diner already is, might win some loyalty points.

Frequency of visits

 BreakfastLunchDinner
Percent meals at foodservice213131
Number of foodservice occasions per person annually78114114

Share of meal occasions

What they eat

Functional Eaters give the highest ratings to:

  • Chick-fil-A
  • Firehouse Subs
  • McAlister’s Deli
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza

These chains see more Functional Eaters than other chains:

  • Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers
  • Schlotzsky's
  • Big Boy
  • Sbarro
  • Hooters

Since they aren’t as discerning, Functional Eaters will hit up the competition—namely convenience stores—for quick, cheap meals on the go. No matter the source, taste is the most important attribute to them.

This group will likely place the least complicated set of expectations on restaurant operators. As portability, value and convenience matter more to these consumers than any others, the trend toward smaller, simplified menus may resonate with the somewhat less-choosy Functional Eater.” —Robert Byrne, manager, market insights at Technomic

Source: technomic


Busy Balancer

Foodservice Hobbyist

Affluent Socializers

Bargain Hunters

Habitual Matures

Health Enthusiasts

 

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Affluent Socializers

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Opportunities for operators

  • Value means quality. They are willing to spend money for a good meal, so gear advertising efforts towards pricier items by emphasizing high-quality ingredients, using trigger words such as “locally sourced,” “farm-raised” or “organic.”
  • Show off signatures. They’ll often order apps or small plates, especially if they’re dishes that cannot be found elsewhere; plus these shareables add to the social aspect of the dining experience. They’ll try new cuisines on occasion, so calling attention to interesting dishes can drive decisions. 

Frequency of visits

 BreakfastLunchDinner
Percent meals at foodservice202726
Number of foodservice occasions per person annually739994

Share of meal occasions

What they eat

Affluent Socializers give the highest ratings to:

  • Firehouse Subs
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • The Capital Grille

These chains see more Affluent Socializers than other chains:

  • Yard House
  • Seasons 52
  • Bonefish Grill

Foodservice Hobbyists and Affluent Socializers comprise more than a quarter of full-service diners. While both groups are interested in a social experience, the price point makes a difference.

Source: technomic


Busy Balancer

Foodservice Hobbyist

Functional Eaters

Bargain Hunters

Habitual Matures

Health Enthusiasts

 

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Bargain Hunters

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Opportunities for operators

  • Just because they don’t like to spend doesn’t mean they aren’t eating out. Bargain Hunters are more likely than others to seek out low prices in order to eat out more often. They like to build meals out of a combination of value-price items, so having a wide selection on a value menu may win them over.
  • Small plates are big. But not necessarily to share or try new flavors like other consumers. Bargain Hunters are more likely to buy them as a less expensive alternative to full-size entrees. 

Frequency of visits

 BreakfastLunchDinner
Percent meals at foodservice102323
Number of foodservice occasions per person annually368383

Share of meal occasions

What they eat

Bargain Hunters give the highest ratings to:

  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Jersey Mike’s Subs
  • Maggiano’s

These chains see more Bargain Hunters than other chains:

  • McDonald’s
  • Taco Bell
  • Little Caesars

Source: technomic


Busy Balancer

Foodservice Hobbyist

Functional Eaters

Affluent Socializers

Habitual Matures

Health Enthusiasts

 

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Habitual Matures

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Opportunities for operators

  • Uninterested in build-your-own options. They like to order menu items as they are, with traditional toppings and sides. Be sure to present traditional options that don’t require creativity or decision-making.

Share of meal occasions

Source: technomic


Busy Balancer

Foodservice Hobbyist

Functional Eaters

Affluent Socializers

Bargain Hunters

Health Enthusiasts

 

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Health Enthusiasts

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Opportunities for operators

  • Seeking customizable options and “clean” labels. They’re more likely to avoid dairy, so custom toppings and vegan alternatives are a draw. But while they see low sugar as a better-for-you attribute in desserts, they shun artificial sweeteners. 

Share of meal occasions

Source: technomic


Busy Balancer

Foodservice Hobbyist

Functional Eaters

Affluent Socializers

Bargain Hunters

Habitual Matures

 

VIEW THE FULL CONSUMER PACKAGE

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