Restaurant Marketing Watch
By Linda Duke, www.dukemarketing.com
Retail food trends are important for Restaurant Marketers to watch. Below are some of the current retail food trends that are showing signs of taking consumer’s dining out dollars away from the restaurant industry.
Consumers are opting for healthy snack items and are finding them on the shelves of grocery retailers. PopChips, introduced only a few years ago, is now ranked in top ten food producers in San Francisco Bay Area with $75 million in sales for 2011. Many other non GMO and organic products touting all natural ingredients are the fastest growing food companies in the U.S.
New makers of all natural products such as “Unreal—Candy Unwrapped” are popping up with products containing nothing un-natural. It’s like when “generic” products all in yellow and black where popular but instead now it is “all natural,” touting whole cane sugar instead of dextrose or high fructose corn syrup.
Kid’s cooking is a hot trend, from offering kid’s cooking classes at local Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA’s to school gardens and retail products for kids to cook with and learn about ingredients and food. Parents are finding their kids interested in learning to cook from shows like Iron Chef, Restaurant Impossible and Hell’s Kitchen on television’s Bravo and Food Networks. There is less of a stigma today about becoming a chef and boys and girls of all ages are finding cooking is more fun than homework!
Child obesity is playing a role in the increase in children’s awareness of food and cooking and retailers are taking note. Grocers are offering schools a percentage of sales of particular cooking items to help raise funds, while others host a coloring contest for special holidays and kids draw particular food items to learn and share. Since the restaurant industry is one of the top employers in the United States, it is great to see the next generation taking an interest in learning about where their food comes from and how to grow it, make it and eat it!
Grab & Go Lunch or Dinner
More than half of all American’s enjoy grabbing food and taking it home to eat. Convenience is important and “heat and serve” items have grown in popularity over the years. More and more retailers and grocers are adding fresh deli’s and pizza ovens, bakeries and hot items like rotisserie chicken and creating their own grab and go menu items for hurried customers.
Costco and Sam’s Club now merchandises large refrigerators with pre-packed entrees to heat and serve. Grab and go items such as Chicken parmesan and lasagna as well as enchiladas, wonton soup, and shrimp scampi are all less than $7 and serve 2-3 people.
Costco sells more rotisserie chicken that any other outlet in the United States with over 50 million sold per year* (*Costco Connection Dec. 2012). A 3-pound rotisserie chicken sells for $4.99 at Costco. The freshly made product stays out for no more than two hours, and is pulled from the shelves and used to make Costco’s signature chicken salad, soup and enchiladas among other items.
A.G. Ferrari Foods, a decades old Italian importer and retailer, has taken shelf space at California’s Oakland Airport. A. G. Ferrari’s first presence in the airport was for a showcase of local foods. Sourdough bread from the San Francisco wharf, Ghirardelli Chocolates and A.G. Ferrari’s pastas, sauces and canned and jarred items were among those featured. Eventually those items led them to the shelves of fresh grab and go items and now the airport includes A.G. Ferrari’s own sandwiches and salads.
Central Market in Texas is known for their deep inventory on just about everything including entrees to go like grilled chicken, BBQ ribs, meat loaf, and fresh sides of organic sweet potatoes and grilled vegetables. Their large format grocery stores include a restaurant, which you can order all the items also available to go, and a cooking school on the second floor which offers numerous classes for children and adults. The prices are fairly steep—similar to Whole Foods, but more and more consumers are interested in knowing exactly what is in their food and will pay more for finer quality.
Not offering online ordering? Wal-Mart does. You can shop for fresh or frozen foods, produce, baking goods, you name it, and all from the comfort of your laptop. Delivery to your door step is free and Wal-Mart branded it, “Home Free”. They are getting a boost in sales by consumer’s that enjoy shopping online and the FREE delivery service besides the low prices.
Dining at the Grocery Store
It’s not uncommon to see Starbucks kiosks inside most Safeway grocery stores on the West Coast.
Now we are seeing wine bars and restaurants inside of grocery stores becoming more popular and consumers are taking notice. Getting everything in one place makes sense for consumers and retailers as well as grocery stores are appealing to them with convenience by leasing space to dry cleaners, rental car operators and even clothing retailers.
On a recent visit to Fry’s grocery store, their wine bar was adjacent to their new wine cellar, “Elevate”, which was booming with customers enjoying a glass of wine. There were numerous counters with grab and go items freshly prepared and easy to eat in the huge dining area created for guests to dine and even play cards or watch television. Walking through the non-food and books aisles felt like being inside a Barnes & Noble with tables and well lit areas to read with your coffee. Retailers understand consumers want to hang-out and are creating environments to give them that opportunity as well as capturing all their food dollars.
Fry’s bookstore area is like being inside a Barnes & Noble.
Fry’s Wine Cellar and adjacent Wine Bar “Elevate”.
Ladies play mahjong and others watch TV or hang out in the Fry’s comfy dining area.