Who and what are the disruptors to the restaurant industry for 2016? Answering that question and giving insights about the current faces and forces changing the way operators do business is a key goal at the Restaurant Leadership Conference, a gathering of more than 2,000 C-level executives in Phoenix this April. Reading the tea leaves will be Technomic president Darren Tristano and SVP Patrick Noone, who will provide a top-level rundown of the trends that are altering the industry in the year ahead. We convinced them to share a sneak peek at the boat-rockers on the radar.
1. Return of the dollar menu
McDonald’s shrunk its dollar menu in early 2015 and made headlines again in November with news that it was doing away with it, in favor of a McPick 2 option. Whether a casualty in the race toward higher quality or a strategy to boost revenues a few dollars at a time, other chains followed, backing off super-value pricing. But Tristano predicts a trend in the reverse direction. “After shifts away from the traditional dollar menu, strong value plays in fast food are bringing back dollar-based pricing,” he says, a move that draws millennials and males, especially.
How often do you order from dollar or value menus at QSRs?
45% Once a week-plus
27% Once every two weeks
19% Less than once a month
2. On-demand delivery
We watched and reported as these third-party services began to proliferate, first in one or two big cities. Now their reach is widening. As more pop-up and others gain steam; as large chains continue to hop onboard; and as consumers start to expect and demand delivery as a price for their loyalty, these startups have many operators re-evaluating their stance. “Third-party delivery creates a disruptive force with operators whose brands may be at risk when consumers use these services,” says Tristano.
24%: Percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds who consider delivery one of the most important attributes in creating a good value at restaurants.
3. Meal assembly
"Meal assembly is hitting America by storm,” says Tristano. The threat for restaurants: competition. Particularly, as more consumers purchase these at-home prep kits, will it take a bite into dinner sales and occasions? For now, most of the services are mail-order, but that could change. “Will the assembly trend find its way into supermarkets soon?” Tristano proffers. If so, the added availability could eat into away-from-home dining even more.