June 1st, 2020

Food Trends During Coronavirus

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

How Has COVID-19 Changed Food Trends?

Food Trends During Coronavirus

Food trends during the coronavirus pandemic have, as you might imagine, changed from what earlier predictions may have expected. Isolation and self-preparation of foods has left consumers yearning for comfort and portability over experimentation and presentation.

During a recent RCA PoweredUp session, Mike Kostyo of Datassential discussed this very topic. By monitoring menu and retail trends from over 100,00 national sources, he showcased what consumers are really craving during this time.

Let’s look at some of the top trends highlighted.

Coronavirus Food Trends

Plant-Based Foods

Plant Based Food Trends

2019 marked a major up-tick in plant-based food representation on menus nationally, going from 14% in 2018 to 56% in 2019. Meat sales from April 12 to May 9, 2020 were 28 percent higher than in the four weeks ending Jan. 18, 2020 according to data from Nielsen. Plant-based meat substitutes, had a jump of 35 percent in sales during the same period. The increase for uncooked products was more dramatic: 53 percent for the vegan products versus 34 percent for meat.

Environmental concerns among consumers are also a driver for this trend. In fact, 21% of consumers are interested in plant-based foods for the environmental impact alone. Generation Z is undoubtedly the leader in plant-based food interest, with 64% of Gen. Zs having tried it and 1 in 5 saying they love it. So, if your target audience is comprised of Gen. Z, you should be considering plant-based options on your menus ASAP!

Mexican Food

COVID-19 Food Trends

Whether it’s the bottomless chips and salsa, the energetic social nature of Mexican restaurants, or the ice-cold citrus margaritas, Mexican food leads the pack for the most craved foods during COVID-19.

The tough part with most Mexican foods is portability. The crispy, crunchy tacos and tostadas tend to lose their texture, smothered burritos get a bit soggy, and fajitas just don’t have quite the same flair without the sizzle platter.

Many Mexican restaurants have overcome these limitations by providing deconstructed to go kits, creative to-go packaging with moisture vents, and limited menus to ensure what they are selling travels well. As Mexican restaurants continue to learn how to overcome these limitations (to-go margaritas certainly help!), you can expect this trend to strengthen and cross into other platforms, like pizza and burgers.

Pizza

Pizza Popularity during COVID-19

Most experts expected pizza to be a top trend prior to coronavirus and it looks like they were right. Cravings for pizza have not decreased during the pandemic. In fact, according to QSR magazine, in March the pizza segment of restaurants showed the smallest losses (8%) but were already starting to level off again.

There are many reasons for this. First and foremost, pizza is still the most popular food in America. Additionally, pizza has high value, has been available to bake at home for years, and is essentially designed for delivery, so there was no consumer hurdle to get over when dine-in options closed.

Pizza companies have further increased interest in their products by offering plant-based options, family meal deals, and efficient contactless order and delivery methods.

BBQ

BBQ trends

BBQ, the classic backyard event, and the All-American outdoor activity. Couple that with the warm summer weather and nostalgia for simpler times and it’s no wonder BBQ ranks high on the current trends list. Like meatloaf and apple pie, BBQ is a classic American comfort food.

Restaurants can easily incorporate BBQ items on their menus. Brisket tacos, pulled-pork pizza, and short-rib sandwiches are all crave-worthy inclusions that consumers will love. Plus, BBQ is extremely portable and loses very little quality in transport.

So, get those smokers rolling, the people want ribs!

Is Your Menu Adapting?

We hope so. Check out previous blogs to see what other trends we’ve seen and how restaurants nationally are responding. Chime in below with your thoughts on what’s trending how to attract customers. We love your feedback.

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April 20th, 2020

Family Meals Trend Nationally

Posted in Food Trends

Family Meals Over New Items

Family Meal Trends

It like looks family meals are going to describe the trend over the next few (and last few) weeks. With social isolation, stay home orders, and mandatory business closures, restaurants are creatively finding ways to maintain operation. One of these ways, and a very popular one, is with family meals.

Normally around this time of the month we’d deliver the new menu items that have been launched nationally over the past few weeks. But as restaurant foot traffic is at a standstill, innovation is being paused and replaced with accessibility. And what better way to make your restaurant accessible than with family meals for all the parents and kids staying home?

So, instead of new menu items, let’s look at the national restaurants serving up great family meal plans.

Family Meals – March 2020

Cowboy Chicken

Cowboy Chicken

Photo courtesy of CowboyChicken.com

The rotisserie chicken specialists at fast casual concept Cowboy Chicken have launched a whole series of awesome family meal options. You can get chicken meals for four or six, all including large sides, whole-wheat rolls, or chips and salsa. Or, you can satisfy your Tex-Mex craving with their Enchiladas Meal which includes nine enchiladas and three large sides.

Buffalo Wild Wings

Coronavirus Meal Deals

Photo courtesy of buffalowildwings.com

The fun folks over at BWWs are offering family meals of 10-20 traditional or boneless wings (or 20 of each) complete with a large side of fries. Additionally, they have buy one get one deals for wings on Tuesdays and Thursday. Sounds like a great, fun way to feed a group.

Fogo de Chão

Fogo Family Meal

Image courtesy of FogodeChao.com

The meat masters at Fogo are mixing up their normal all-you-can-eat service style with regular and family meals to go. You can find items like dry-aged New York strip, a rack of eight lamb chops, 5 pounds of beef short-rib, and even a cauliflower steak with Parmesan crust. All options include their classic pao de queijo and your choice of sides.

Mendocino Farms

Family Meals 2020

Photo courtesy of DestinationIrvine.com

The whole family craving sandwiches? Check out the Mendocino Farms’ family meal, the Mendo Meal Deal, which offers four salads or sandwiches and two sides for $40.00. Additionally, if you’re short on staples you can purchase a whole loaf of bread to be included with your pickup/delivery. Pretty sweet deal!

Olive Garden

Restaurants serving carryout

Image courtesy of OliveGarden.com

Don’t worry, you can still get your pasta, plus one more! With the Olive Garden Buy One, Take One special, you get a free pasta choice with the purchase of another pasta. With 10 options, everyone can get something they love. This deal is for car-side pickup only. Don’t forget to order salad and bread sticks!

Taco Cabana

Family Meals for Takeout

Photo courtesy of TacoCabana.com.

Taco Cabana is not only serving family meal deal specials, but you can also pair them with a beer or margarita (where states allow). They’re offering multiple variations and sizes of fajitas, along with family-sized sides, sopapillas, and chocolate cake. Don’t forget to grab a frozen lime or strawberry margarita and a pack of 12 or 24 tortillas for later.

Food for the Family

It’s great to see restaurants offering meals meant to feed the whole family. It’s a perfect way to support those at home while still being able to serve food. Hopefully this can offer a little peace to those with restless homes full of kids and parents.

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April 6th, 2020

Restaurants Adapt to Coronavirus

Posted in Educational

Restaurants Use Creativity to Adapt to Coronavirus

Restaurants Adapt to Coronavirus

Restaurants across the nation are working tirelessly to adapt to life with coronavirus. This takes much more work for some.

Many restaurants were already effectively set up for delivery services, while others had (up to very recently) not considered having it as an option. This has led to a scramble to put the framework in place.

But restaurants can’t survive on delivery only. Therefore, many have innovated new offerings, delivery options, and services to help offset the loss of foot traffic felt on their premises and in their pocketbooks.

How Restaurants are Adapting to CoronavirusContactless Delivery

Contactless/Curbside Delivery

We’ll start with the most obvious: Contactless and curbside delivery methods. Several national chains (Domino’s, Pizza Hut, &pizza, Chili’s, and Wingstop, to name a few) have implemented a contactless delivery option. Even the grocery delivery service Instacart is providing contactless delivery.

This is how it works: Customers order their food (or groceries) online and pay ahead. The items are then delivered to their doorstep by an employee (or delivery service). The customer is alerted of the arrival of their food and voila! Everything they need without risk of contamination. This option has helped many restaurants maintain a steady flow of business.

Conversely, for those businesses who don’t have the infrastructure for delivery (or are out of area), curbside pickup has become quite popular. This works one of two ways. First, customers order ahead, then call upon arriving at the restaurant and an employee brings their food out to their vehicle. With the second method, customers order ahead, and their food is placed in a marked bag in a receptacle in front of the restaurant. There’s a bit of an “honor system” required with the second option, but so far no issues have been reported.

Meal Kits

Meal Kits Coronavirus

Meal kits are a great way for restaurants to maximize income on minimal labor. No need to fire up the stoves and fryers for these packs. Just prep out the ingredients, package them up with simple instructions, and allow families a chance to find their inner chef at home.

Crossroads Kitchen in LA is providing lasagna kits, while the Michelin famous Alinea in Chicago offers short rib beef wellington and margarita kits. In San Francisco you can get Creole spiced buttermilk fried/baked chicken from Ungrafted. Even specialty providers like pop-up dinner chefs and caterers have entered the meal kit arena, as exemplified by Elemental Table and Lunch Wired Corporate Catery in Denver.

Some specialty shops have noticed a need for food related entertainment. Buttercream Bakeshop in Denver is preparing cupcake decorating kits for delivery. They’re complete with your choice of cupcakes, buttercream frosting, sprinkles, and other toppings.

Alcohol Take Out / Delivery

Restaurants Coronavirus

In the wake of mandatory business shut-downs across many states, liquor laws have loosened allowing restaurants to sell beer, wine, spirits, and mixed cocktails with their to-go and pickup orders. This is a big help, as on average alcohol represents 20-30% of total restaurant sales nationwide.

States like New York, Colorado, Illinois, California, and Texas have temporarily relaxed the laws to allow restaurants a chance to earn income off these high profit items. And with many of these same areas imposing mandatory “stay at home” orders for the population, alcohol related risks are relatively low.

I’ll Have That To Go!

These are only a few ways restaurants are innovating in the face of difficult times. Most have reduced their menu sizes to support to-go, while some have gone as far as selling groceries out of their walk-ins. At the end of the day, restaurants need customers to keep ordering, and they’ll do what it takes to feed them. Hopefully they’ll order a bottle of wine to pair with that lasagna kit.

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