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Consumer Trends

Looking at 2012 restaurant trends—and beyond

Pressure to improve the healthfulness of kids meals and restaurant fare in general, along with the influence of the growing Asian, Hispanic, Boomer and Millennial population groups are among the factors that will shape the restaurant industry in 2012 and beyond, according to The NPD Group. Overall, NPD’s foodservice market research projects consumer demand for restaurant-prepared meals/snacks to rise slightly above 2011 levels. Here are some trend highlights from the report.

  • Healthy kids meals: Restaurants are beginning to offer children better-for-you foods, like fruit, grilled chicken, cereal and granola, moving away from fried chicken, full-sized hamburgers and French fries.
  • Spice and flavor boost: In response to growing Hispanic and Asian populations in the U.S., an increase in the demand for spicier, more flavorful foods is emerging. Evolving tastes will affect juices as well as food items.
  • Retail competition will grow: Due to high unemployment, work-related lunch sales have experienced a big drop. This has opened a new market for non-restaurant competition like supermarkets, on-the-go convenience stores and other one-stop shopping outlets.
  • Higher beef and chicken prices: As prices for these popular proteins rise, restaurants will turn towards other less expensive proteins, including some fish species.  Much like what happened to chicken in 2011 when beef prices rose, the same will now take place with both chicken and beef.
  • Social media: Although still very much evolving, social media is gaining a larger and larger share in advertising, especially within the restaurant industry. Its leveraging potential and benefits are important in stimulating consumer interests.
  • Focus on beverages: Successful tactics to drive traffic and boost profits include beverage loyalty programs, promotions to build off-hour demand for specialty drinks, an influx of new and non-carbonated options and offerings that appeal to the aging population. Finding new ways to promote beverages will continue to be a successful strategy for restaurants in 2012.

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