Consumer behavior

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What’s Up with Meat, Poultry and Seafood?

What’s Up with Meat, Poultry and Seafood?

by David Klemt

Barbecue food plate on wooden table

We know how plant proteins are performing with consumers but what do we know about how meat, poultry, and seafood are doing?

Well, because of a recent report from Datassential, we know many consumers are “meat-limiters.” And research from the World Resources Institute shows that plant-based performance is nuanced.

Interestingly, the performance of animal proteins on-premise appears to be following a beverage trend: Moderation. According to Datassential, more consumers are reducing their consumption of meat and poultry than increasing it in comparison with 2021.

So, meat-limiters may be indicative of the future of meat consumption.

Consumer Shifts

As the name implies, meat-limiters are limiting or otherwise reducing their consumption of animal proteins. Importantly, it doesn’t appear that a significant percentage of consumers are eliminating animal proteins from their diets.

Rather, many people are simply increasing the amount of plant-based items they’re eating. However, that increase is more aspirational than real in some cases.

Per Datassential’s survey of 1,500 consumers in the US, just over 70 percent of people are meat eaters. In contrast, nearly 25 percent are “flexitarian.” Just two percent are vegan or pescatarian, and only three percent are vegetarian.

So, the vast majority of Americans are still consuming meat, poultry, and seafood. We just now have reason to believe that more consumers may be leaning toward a flexitarian diet.

A bit over a quarter of consumers consume meat every day. Still, many people aspire to eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, per Datassential.

However, there are more pescatarians, vegans, and vegetarians among Gen Z than the overall population. According to Datassential, this could indicate a shift away from animal proteins in the future.

Meat Performance is Nuanced

Just like plant-based performance, meat performance is nuanced. There are many factors at play.

Shifts in what consumers value are driving changes to the performance of proteins. Health, sustainability, the climate, taste, and affordability have an effect on all proteins, animal and plant.

Undeniably, inflation and shaken consumer confidence are impacting protein performance. Everything, it seems, is more expensive at the moment. Generally speaking, animal proteins are pricier than plant-based items.

It makes sense, then, that some consumers are reducing their intake of animal proteins and filling that void with fruits, veggies, and legumes.

Of particular note are shifts in daily and weekly consumption of animal proteins in 2022. Meat consumption once or more per week—beef, lamb, pork, veal—is up three percent. However, there’s a ten-percent increase in consumers eating poultry once or more per week.

Interestingly, daily poultry consumption is down seven percent in comparison with 2021. Likewise, daily consumption of seafood is also down seven percent, and fewer people are consuming it less than once per week.

Plant-based is Down

Despite what some would think, meat-limiters don’t appear to be driving up plant proteins significantly.

In fact, according to Datassential, the daily consumption of plant-based proteins is down. Per the research firm, seitan, tempeh, and tofu are the experiencing the greatest drop in daily consumption.

The fact is that across generations, more consumers eat animal proteins on a daily basis than their plant-based counterparts. Gen Z, per Datassential, consumes more animal proteins on a daily basis than other generations.

So, how does it make sense that people are reducing their meat intake but plant-based isn’t seeing a sizable jump in consumption?

In part, the answer is the growing popularity of plant-forward dishes. These are items, like bowls, that offer a small amount of meat, poultry, seafood or dairy. The majority of these menu items consists of plants but are not free of animal proteins completely.

The path forward may indeed be a plant-forward menu. Of course, this is heavily reliant on a specific concept or brand. Still, it’s likely many restaurants can do well offering mixed dishes, those heavier on plant proteins than animal proteins.

Image: Peter Pham on Unsplash

Note: This article is based on information from Datassential’s “2022 Plant-Forward Opportunity” report. To access a number of free reports, sign up with Datassential today.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What Consumers Expect from Delivery

What Consumers Expect from Delivery

by David Klemt

Delivery or takeout food order in brown paper bag

Consumers are developing specific behaviors and opinions regarding delivery that impact their perception of restaurants and brands.

Over the course of two years and three surveys, Deloitte has attempted to learn more about consumers and delivery.

In total, Deloitte surveyed 1,550 restaurant customers. Additionally, the multinational interviewed highly positioned executives from ten casual, fast-casual, and QSR brands.

What Consumers Want

First, it should come as no surprise that delivery is here to stay. None of Deloitte’s survey results indicate otherwise.

In fact, it appears that some consumers are showing an interest in additional delivery methods. Half of survey respondents are willing to try driverless or drone delivery.

More than half—64 percent—don’t expect to return to pre-pandemic dining habits by March of this year. Illustrating the habit of ordering takeout and delivery, 61 percent of respondents engage with restaurants that way at least once per week. That represents a 32-percent increase from June 2020 to September 2021.

When dining off-premise, 57 percent of Deloitte survey respondents prefer to place orders via an app. However, 40 percent of respondents prefer a restaurant’s own branded website or app. That shows that:

  1. A restaurant’s website matters. A significant percentage of consumers want to get information, get a feel for a restaurant, and place orders with a business directly.
  2. Direct delivery is feasible. Consumers want to know and feel as though they’re supporting a restaurant directly rather than a third-party business.

Own the Delivery Experience

Of course, quality is a concern with consumers who place delivery orders. This points to another pitfall regarding third-party delivery beyond the fees.

Unfair as it is, three out of five restaurant customer survey respondents have quality expectations. Specifically, they expect the same food experience off-premise as they receive on-premise. That means the same quality and the same freshness.

They also indicate that wait times of up to 30 minutes are acceptable. Here’s where the risk to restaurants comes into play. Consumers will fault the restaurant for late orders; cold food (or melted or room-temperature food for cold items); iced drinks becoming watered down; and other order issues even if they’re delivered by third-party services.

So, operators must look into and invest into what they can to improve the quality of delivery orders. Containers that keep hot food hot, French fries and other fried foods crisp, and cold foods cold are paramount.

Unfortunately, problems that occur after an order has left a restaurant—which are out of the business’ hands—are often attributed to the venue. Another reason, then, to consider and implement direct delivery.

Image: Yu Hosoi on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Square: 2022 Threats & Opportunities

Square: 2022 Threats & Opportunities

by David Klemt

Square terminal in restaurant kitchen

As all hospitality professionals know, the past nearly two years is imposing rapid change on the industry, necessitating rapid, strategic adaptation.

The key word in the above sentence isn’t “adaptation,” it’s “strategic.”

Of course, it’s hard to make strategic choices without as much information as possible.

To that end, we’ve reviewed Square‘s recently released “Future of Restaurants: 2022 Edition.” This is the company’s second annual Future of Restaurants report.

Square partnered with Wakefield Research, surveying 500 operators and 1,000 consumers to identify 2022 threats and opportunities.

Threat: Labor Shortage

Most operators aren’t going to want to read this prediction from Square. However, we can’t identify and adapt for opportunities if we don’t acknowledge threats.

Per Square’s report, the labor shortage may never see a correction. In other words, welcome to yet another new normal.

More than 70 percent of operators say they’re facing a labor shortage, per Square. Just over 20 percent of available positions were, at the time the survey was conducted, unfilled.

Instead, operators will likely, according to Square, need to make operational and work culture changes:

  • Improve working conditions. For example, encouraging and acting on team feedback. Another example? Modernizing scheduling.
  • Ensure workers are being mentored and not simply managed.
  • Hire, train, assign tasks, and schedule more strategically to operate with a smaller team.
  • Offering incentives that entice higher-quality candidates to work for you.

One participant quoted in the Square report claims that QR code ordering dropped their labor cost percentage by 150 percent.

Threat: Lack of Tech

As SevenRooms suggested when looking forward to 2022, technology solutions can lessen the burden of labor shortages. That leads us to another big threat: failing to embrace tech.

Some operators bristle at the word “automation.” For many, it conjures an image of robots in the kitchen and delivering food to tables.

Obviously, we’re opposed to replacing staff with any form of automation. However, we support automating tasks if that means team members are better utilized.

Why not automate inventory? Why not automate online order filling? If it improves operations and the guest experience, automation is less threatening.

According to Square’s report, 62 percent of operators think automation is appealing for managing online, delivery, and contactless orders. Ninety percent of operators say that back-of-house automation—if staff can focus on more important tasks—is a good idea.

More than 90 percent think automated inventory is an appealing solution.

It has taken a lot of time for hospitality to catch up to other industries in embracing tech. But Square reports that 36 percent of restaurants upgraded their business tech in 2021.

Of course, automation will become a threat if operators lean too heavily into it and stop paying attention to detail.

Phrased another way, be tech-savvy, not tech-reliant.

Opportunity: Omni-channel

Square see implementing an omni-channel strategy as the way forward. In fact, their general manager for Square Restaurants, Bryan Solar, said the following:

“We see the time of the dine-in only or takeout only as largely done forever.”

Going omni-channel (diversifying) in the restaurant space means making online ordering and delivery important elements within the overall business strategy. To that end, Solar posits kitchens will grow in size to better handle online orders.

Square’s survey reveals some intriguing numbers:

  • 13 percent of consumers say they’ll avoid restaurants that don’t offer online ordering.
  • Among restaurants with online ordering, those channels generate 34 percent of their revenue.
  • Over the past year, 54 percent of restaurants either added or expanded online ordering channels.
  • Online ordering is likely here to stay: 69 percent of respondents plan to offer it post-Covid-19.
  • 24 percent of operators are planning to allow guests to order alcohol from them online.

Another interesting set of numbers pertains to first- and third-party delivery. As we’ve stated several times, we much prefer operators offer first-party or direct delivery. According to Square, 49 percent of operators plan go direct delivery. More than half—62 percent—will pursue third-party delivery. That suggests that some operators will offer both.

Opportunity: Direct Ordering

When it comes to engaging online guests, operators need to control the experience. As I wrote for another publication years ago, a restaurant or bar’s website is still very important.

This statistic proves that statement true: Per Square, 68 percent of online guests want to order via a restaurant’s website or app, not a third-party.

More than likely, a significant portion of those guests want to know they’re supporting a restaurant and its staff directly. Hence the importance placed on ordering via the website or their own branded app.

So, operators would do well to ensure their websites feature an ordering widget. Or, they can opt to have an app built (or at least skinned) for their business.

Opportunity: Kiosks

According to Square’s survey results, 79 percent of consumers prefer ordering from kiosks over ordering from staff.

Most consumers and operators likely associate ordering kiosks with fast food restaurants. However, other categories can also benefit from these devices.

Close to half—45 percent—identified it as a preference when ordering at a casual-dining restaurant.

And fine dining isn’t immune to the convenience of tech. A little over 20 percent of consumers prefer to order via kiosk in the fine-dining space.

Overall, kiosks speak to the guest desires for convenience and safety. More than a third indicated that ordering via digital menu is appealing because they don’t have to touch a menu someone else has touched. And 37 percent like a digital option because they don’t have to wait for a server to bring them a physical menu.

Eleven percent of Square survey respondents will avoid a restaurant if they don’t offer digital menus.

Nearly half (45 percent) of restaurants are planning to offer QR code menus post-Covid-19. Another benefit of digital menus is dynamic pricing. As costs fluctuate, operators can increase or reduce prices easily without printing new menus.

Outlook

Representing a stark contrast from 2020 survey results, nearly 60 percent of operators say the survival of their restaurants is a concern in 2022.

That’s still a high number but vastly lower than how operators answered about 2021. Last year, 92 percent of operators surveyed said they were worried about survival.

According to Square’s report, operators are looking past surviving and making long-term plans. That’s a welcome sign that confidence is improving.

To review Square’s “Future of Restaurants: 2022 Edition” report in its entirety, click here.

Image: Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Consumers May Keep Eating at Home

Consumers May Keep Eating at Home

by David Klemt

Friends and family around a dinner table at home

A recent report suggests that consumer interest in eating at home more will continue even after we return to “normal.”

This is the finding from a survey conducted by the Food Industry Association (FMI)l, formerly known as the Food Marketing Institute.

The FMI surveyed grocery shoppers to determine habits influenced by the pandemic.

Emphasis on Nutrition

I look to a wide variety of sources to analyze consumer behavior. Even their grocery habits can be valuable for operators to know.

In this case, knowing about the dining habits of today’s consumer provides important insights. For instance, knowing what types of food items shoppers are purchasing can be very telling.

Per the FMI, nearly half of survey respondents (49 percent) indicate they’re choosing healthier foods when grocery shopping. Clearly, living through a public health crisis is influencing this decision.

Today’s consumer, with more information at their fingertips and the purchasing power to demand more transparency from company’s, has become increasingly focused on their health. That interest grew stronger during the pandemic as a healthier lifestyle can lead to a reduced risk for illness.

This particular finding should tell operators a few things. First, they may want to consider updating their menus with healthier items. Second, that’s not limited to food—many guests are interested in no- and low-ABV drinks. Third, operators who use healthier ingredients should make that clear via their menu item descriptions.

At-home Dining

The FMI also found that 41 percent of survey respondents plan to prepare and enjoy more meals at home moving forward than they did before the pandemic.

That ties directly to 44 percent saying they “like” or ‘love” cooking at home more now.

While this survey was intended to provide consumer behavior insights for grocers, there’s clearly value for operators.

As many learned during the pandemic, guests are interested in supporting restaurants and bars buy ordering meal and cocktail kits.

Since it’s important to meet guests where they are, operators may want to keep such kits on offer. People have shown they’re eager to engage with restaurants and bars via virtual tastings and cooking classes. Clearly, many are also happy to order meal kits from restaurants to make in the comfort of their own homes.

Yes, there’s pent-up demand set to be unleashed. And yes, people are eager to get back out there and socialize. But there are also financial, health, and safety concerns that will keep some people from dining out as often as they did pre-pandemic.

That doesn’t mean they’re out of reach of restaurants and bars entirely. However, it does mean operators will need to adapt and get creative to earn their business.

Image: fauxels from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Rediscovering Your Guests in 2021

Rediscovering Your Guests in 2021

by David Klemt

Guests in a restaurant and bar

Labatt Breweries of Canada wants operators to get to know their guests all over again in 2021.

Luckily, this isn’t a massive undertaking. However, it requires commitment and an understanding of altered consumer behavior.

During the 2021 Restaurants Canada Show, Labatt presented “Rediscover Your Guest: The 2021 Consumer.”

Christina Veira, bar and beverage curator for the RC Show, hosted the digital session. Labatt panelists included Michelle Tham, head of education and certified Cicerone, and Megan Harris, director of insights and strategy. Casey Ferrell, vice president of US and Canada Monitors for Kantar Consulting rounded out the panel.

Who’s Your 2021 Guest?

The good news is that Canadians are still consuming beverage alcohol. The less-good news is that they’ve gotten used to drinking mainly at home.

In fact, per Megan Harris, 95 percent of beverage alcohol occasions now happen at home. Harris also says there’s excitement about a return to in-person restaurant and bar service. However, several pandemic-driven behaviors will persist, including:

  • Takeout
  • Delivery
  • Daytime drinking
  • Working from home

Guests are set to unleash a torrent of pent-up demand when they can safely return to restaurants and bars. They want to indulge themselves, have fun and new experiences, but also feel safe.

Generally speaking, younger guests are more tolerant of risk. Conversely, guests over 50 years old are more cautious.

Vaccine Influence

Per Ferrell, there are four distinct vaccine groups in Canada and the United States:

  • People have gotten a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • People who can’t wait to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • People who are unsure about Covid-19 vaccines.
  • People who refuse to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

Ferrell says to remove the final group on that list. Doing so shows that about two-thirds of Canadians (and Americans) are in the process of getting the vaccine. Therefore, operators need consider how to address vaccination safety along with vaccination requirements for guests and employees. For Ferrell, the best lever to pull is the one that addresses Covid-19 and vaccine risks.

Additionally, just because the calendar ticked over to 2021 doesn’t mean everything is different. Accordingly, Ferrell feels that Q1 is the “More of 2021” stage of this year. He expects people to open up their bubbles during possibly Q2 or Q3, the “Less Covid-19” stage. Parties that include multiple households will return in force in Q4.

How to Meet 2021 Guest Expectations

First, we must be cautious when people return to restaurants, bars and other venues en masse. That initial boost in traffic driven by pent-up demand will ebb quicker than one would expect.

To get people through the doors, operators will need to focus on:

  1. health and safety;
  2. staff expectations and training;
  3. social interactions and the joy deficit; and
  4. guest experience and journey.

Harris sums up the first point succinctly: Anything that can be touchless, should be touchless. Operators should expect contactless features to remain moving forward. The expectation for hygiene will also remain. Guests will want to see employees cleaning and sanitizing, for instance.

Speaking of employees, operators must address the role they’ll plan in crowd management. Unfortunately, management and employees will have to be ready to enforce health and safety protocols strongly.

As Ferrell notes, long-term lockdown means large swaths of the population need to re-learn how to interact with others. One way to drive guests through restaurant or bar doors is promoting the role they play in socializing. Hospitality businesses facilitate social interaction—it’s one of the industry’s greatest strengths. Equally, restaurants and bars fill people’s joy deficits.

Operators, says Harris, need to consider:

  • every way they can offer an experience guests can’t have at home;
  • how they can capitalize on the daytime drinking experience;
  • how to extend the guest experience—pre-visit and post-visit;
  • how to attract older guests to their venues;
  • leveraging patio spaces; and
  • focusing on messaging that promotes escapism and excitement.

Another interesting consideration concerns table distances. Every operator needs to weigh square feet per guest and distancing tables. Social distance will likely remain important to guests for at least a little while post-pandemic.

Bonus

Ferrell answered a question I asked about Las Vegas specifically. Dayclubs, which largely focus on elevating pool parties, are an integral part of Vegas hospitality.

So, how can they signal their commitment to health and safety as relates to infections?

Ferrell’s answer is that evidence appears to indicate that pools are Covid-19 infection spreaders. Therefore, dayclub operators should focus more on the crowd control aspect of health and safety. Additionally, messaging should focus on indulgence.

After all, says Ferrell, not much is more indulgent than saying, “I’m going to take the day for myself and go to a daylife venue.”

Image: Nick Hillier on Unsplash

Top