The era of broad restaurant menus is in the rearview mirror, as customers are looking for eateries to execute well on fewer items, Technomic Principal Joe Pawlak said during a presentation on the state of the industry.
On the plus side, concepts with more streamlined menus can take advantage of smaller footprints and increased operational agility, he noted.
More sophisticated consumer demands
With greater access to information, consumers’ requests of restaurants will continue to grow. Brand transparency will remain a key issue, as will the changing idea of value, which encompasses not only a fair price but exceptional food quality and other factors such as ambiance.
Customization will stay top of mind for diners, especially younger ones, Pawlak said, as 69% of consumers say the ability to customize is important to them, whether or not they choose to do so.
Political beliefs aside, there’s no denying that strange weather patterns are gripping much of the globe, with implications for food costs and customer traffic, Pawlak said. He referenced the impact of patterns such as 2014’s so-called Polar Vortex, which not only resulted in lost restaurant sales, but also property damage and other service disruptions.
Fifty-seven percent of consumers say they either sometimes or always eat local, driving demand for those types of items on menus. However, different definitions of “local” abound, Pawlak noted, and could mean anything from items being sourced within a particular city to within a much broader region, like the Midwest.
Largely, he emphasized, it references food with a story, as meat procured from a plant two blocks away would be likely be perceived as being less local than that sourced from a small family farm several states away.