Foodservice Market Research & Business Solutions

For more than 40 years, The NPD Group has been tracking the foodservice and restaurant industry daily. We are the leading source for trends, performance indicators, and market sizing—with unique information and insight that spans the entire supply chain, from manufacturers to distributors to operators.

Our flagship information service for the foodservice industry, CREST®, along with SupplyTrack® and our other foodservice market research, can help you with strategic planning and positioning, product/menu development, customer targeting, competitive analysis, and product performance tracking.

We can also bring these robust data assets along with our industry expertise and combine it with your data or third-party data to address your unique business issues.


Products


CREST

Since 1975 CREST®, NPD's flagship information service, has been monitoring all aspects of how consumers use restaurants and foodservice. Over 400,000 consumer visits to commercial and non-commercial foodservice establishments are continually and rigorously tracked. CREST arms manufacturers and operators with market dynamics from the consumer perspective and allows them to monitor the total foodservice industry or examine specific segments, categories, chains, or food items. CREST tracks consumer foodservice usage in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.  One time reports are available for the Netherlands, Poland, New Zealand and South Korea. Category and data availability varies by country.

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CREST Local Market

See CREST restaurant information broken out across the top media markets in the U.S. This view allows you to benchmark performance and analyze competitive strengths and weaknesses at the local market level. Ask us for a complete listing of the markets available.

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CREST OnSite

Four times a year, CREST OnSite reports on consumer dining experiences in the vending, business and industry, secondary school, college and university, recreation, lodging, hospital, senior care, and military segments. Clients receive an in-depth view of what foods and beverages are purchased, where and when they are consumed, how much they cost, and how satisfied consumers were with their dining experiences.

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Checkout Tracking

Checkout Tracking℠ provides information on consumer buying behavior at the market basket level, based on receipts for brick-and-mortar retail purchases. You get precise, item-level purchase detail that is linked to buyers and their demographics. Data comes from large-scale longitudinal panels, making it possible to study the same consumers over time, analyze competitive market baskets, and identify purchase patterns.

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SupplyTrack

SupplyTrack® is the only monthly point-of-sale service that tracks every product shipped from a critical mass of leading foodservice distributors to each of their operators. It delivers in-depth insights for categories, brands, items, product attributes, and operator segments. Foodservice manufacturers and distributors use this information to view market trends, measure performance, size the market, and develop sales optimization strategies.

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ReCount

Know more with ReCount®, a census of commercial restaurant locations in the U.S. and Canada. It includes both chain and independent restaurant locations. Restaurants are categorized by service type and food specialty within the QSR and FSR segments, and by geography, from the national level down to specific unit address.

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QSR Market Monitor

This continuous (daily), syndicated awareness, trial, and usage tracker for quick-service restaurant (QSR) operators captures information on what motivates consumers to visit restaurants, delivering in-depth insight into brand/advertising awareness, ad content recalled, ad ratings, cross-chain purchasing, recency of visit, and customer satisfaction.

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SalesTrack

Uncover answers with this market benchmarking service for participating chains in North America and Europe. It delivers monthly or weekly reports on total system sales, branded units, and same-store sales trends, based on actual sales data. The SalesTrack® suite also includes SalesTrack Weekly and SalesTrack Market.

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Convenience Store Monitor

The Convenience Store Monitor helps manufacturers and retailers understand what is selling and who’s buying at convenience stores.  Its exclusive detail includes the unique characteristics of convenience store shoppers, profiles of product categories, and insights into specific chains’ strengths and weaknesses – all of which can be analyzed by dayparts, regions, key channel and demographic metrics.

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Solutions


Modeling and Analytics

Where are the opportunities? Where are the dangers? What happens next? Now you can know. The NPD Group’s Solutions portfolio provides insight into what will happen in the future in your market.

Our team combines NPD POS and consumer information; custom survey research; distinctive, one-of-a kind research techniques and methodologies; and a half century of industry expertise to identify opportunities, uncover threats, forecast sales and market share, optimize pricing and assortment, and much more.

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Reports


May 25, 2016

Eat In or Eat Out – What Drive Dinner Choices?

Every day we face multiple choices, both major and minor, when it comes to where and what to eat for dinner. The decisions range from the simple “Am I hungry?” to the not-so-simple “Do I have all the food and beverage components to prepare a meal at home?” Dinner is an essential part of our daily routine, and there is always the question of whether should we eat in or eat out.

As a result of our ever-changing lifestyles, we’re busier than ever, working, taking the kids here and there, attending social events, and on and on. These activities result in many people and their families needing to think seriously about their dinner options on a regular basis.   

Despite busy lives, many choose to eat at home instead of going to a restaurant. The dinner occasion is extremely important to the restaurant industry, with nearly a third of all visits taking place at dinner. Further, dinner accounts for over 40 percent of industry dollars, or said another way, $179 billion annually.    

Trend in source of dinner meals

Since the recession, restaurants have lost share to home prepared meals. In 2015, 20 percent of dinner meals were purchased at a restaurant, down from 23 percent in 2007. This may not seem like a dramatic change until you quantify the magnitude of the loss. On a per capita basis, visits to restaurants for dinner are down 7.5 visits per person over this time period. This decline translates to $23 billion lost dollars on dinner alone. 

These trends result in the need to understand how consumers make dinnertime decisions and identify where there are opportunites for restaurant operators to influence those decisions in order to grow their business at this occasion.  This topic was covered at our recent Foodservice Summit, The Path To Consumption – How Consumers Choose.

                                                     

Source of Dinner Meals


Source:  The NPD Group /Eating Patterns in America 2015

When we decide where to get dinner

We’ve all been there. We’re in the mood for something to eat, but not sure what it is or where we should go. Should we go to a sit-down restaurant, use take-out, or just stay at home and eat in? There are always lots of options available, but that serves only to make the decision-making process more difficult. The question is, when are these decisions made? How often is this decision made at the last minute, and how does that impact the decision to go to a restaurant for dinner? To answer this question, we conducted a proprietary study; results are now available in report form:Eat In or Out? What Drives Dinner Choices.

that the study showed nearly half of the decisions about where to get dinner are made that day. There are two different kinds of consumers: those who plan where to get their dinner in advance and those who make their decision the day of.


 Source: The NPD Group / Eat In or Out? What Drives Dinner Choices Custom Study 2016


Of particular note, the closer we get to dinnertime, the more likely we are to choose a restaurant. Among the last minute decisions, more than a quarter of dinners are won by restaurants. And thecloser we get to the weekend, the more restaurants win the up-for-grab dinners.

Decision drivers for eating dinner in vs. eating dinner at restaurants

Even in challenging times, we find many benefits to visiting restaurants for dinner. Dinner out is considered a treat in a variety of ways. Many continue to point to the fact that there’s work involved with an in-home prepared meal – work from which restaurants spare them. When it comes to eating at home, the decision is largely tied to the cost associated with going out to a restaurant for dinner.



Source: The NPD Group / Eat In or Out? What Drives Dinner Choices Custom Study 2016

Consumers find many benefits to visiting restaurants for dinner

The importance of enticing consumers to leave their homes is especially important at the dinner meal occasion. How do restaurant operators win this battle? The first way to win is with the menu. A restaurant must have menu offerings that beat at-home availability. New menu offerings stimulate interest, and variety, freshness, and quality go a long way in meeting value expectations and the desire for healthier meal options. At the same time, increased focus on the guest experience should have favorable payoff, as many of these visits are driven by loyalty. Superior service and speed of service are critical components of driving customer loyalty. Making customers feel valued is key to building customer loyalty. These are the wants and needs to meet in order to lure consumers off their couches and into a restaurant for dinner. Without fulfilling these needs, potential restaurant visitors will continue to shift their dinner meals to in-home occasions.

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February 25, 2016

Marketing To Visit Situations

The restaurant industry is not just a single business

Within any industry, purchase decisions are influenced by a variety of consumer needs. With restaurants, the decision is not simply whether to have lunch at a restaurant. Other factors come into play: to have it alone or with others, to dine in the restaurant, or to take the food away to eat it somewhere else. 

After deciding to eat food from a restaurant, then it’s time to decide where to source the food. An operator might be in the breakfast, lunch, supper, or snack business. On-premises service, carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery options may be available. Beyond that, does the operator focus on weekend or weekday business? Does the operator appeal to families with kids or only to adults? Needless to say, many factors go into the process of deciding where to get food and beverages.

Visit situations defined

When creating the visit situations associated with the CREST® database, we segmented the purchase occasions being reported against all of the component factors our panelists are asked to record (daypart, weekpart, where purchased, where eaten, prior activity, and party composition). The end result was 18 unique visit situations. Shown below are the unique situations in rank order of those garnering the greatest share of traffic.

These unique visit situations were created to help define the consumer needs restaurant operators and their supplier partners must consider as they develop marketing strategies and product offerings. The needs to be satisfied and the visit situation that leverages the most significant traffic volume for that concept will vary depending on restaurant type.  

Ranking visit situations

QSR clearly has been the segment driving overall industry performance – CREST shows 76 percent of commercial restaurant traffic moves through QSR channels. Presented below are the visit situation rankings for QSR visits. They closely reflect the visit situation rankings for the total restaurant industry.

QSRs have grown for several years at the morning meal. This growth is shown in the growth of the fast breakfast visit situation. A number of the growing QSR visit situations are those recently noted in our CREST Executive Topline: weekday occasions that satisfy the need for a quick, convenient meal. This is a growing need in the marketplace.  

Ranking visit situations for full service restaurants

Not too surprisingly, there was little to no growth among the unique visit situations applied to visits made to full service restaurants. It has been a very challenging environment for many of these concepts – particularly for independents, as they are a dominant force in this segment. Within the midscale segment, the importance of “full breakfast” is well known. However, the “out to lunch” visit situation also contributes considerable volume to midscale concepts and warrants attention, as visits have declined in recent years.

Casual dining concepts didn’t fare much better than midscale outlets when we evaluated top visit situations. Nearly all of the situations that account for sizeable traffic contribution are declining. The exception is “a bite at night,” where visits have increased by 2 percent over the past year.

Importance of understanding visit situation marketing

While we have provided a snapshot of the consumer needs satisfied for each segment by visit situation, more insight that can be gleaned by viewing an operator’s business in this manner. The visit situation analysis identifies:

  • The size of opportunity offered by each consumer need (situation)
  • The relative position the chain holds within each situation, where the chain is well developed and/or under-developed (its strengths and weaknesses)
  • The competitors of importance within each situation
  • The customers to target with advertising/promotions in order to strengthen a chain’s position in selected situations

By evaluating these unique visit situations for a chain or a restaurant category, we can find pockets of growth where needs are being satisfied, regardless of overall chain/category performance. This lets restaurant operators and their suppliers focus on key situations that are growing and develop tactics and strategies for continued growth. Analysis of visit situations allows companies to identify the situations that leverage a sizeable amount of traffic, and those that need attention to in order to increase consumer visits. Developing marketing strategies based on the unique needs being satisfied or not satisfied could go a long way in helping an operator appeal to consumers and attracting more visits.

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January 4, 2016

Snacking in America with CultureWaves

Your Definitive Guide to Snacking

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January 1, 2016

Value Wars – A New Twist On Combo Meal Deals

The QSR segment has been known for offering consumers combo meal deals and lower-priced value menu options. The focus on lower-priced options has been relatively quiet for a number of years, particularly following the recent recession. In an attempt to move consumers away from expecting ongoing steep discounts and to compete more effectively with fast casual operators, many large quick service chains had focused their marketing strategies on quality and more premium product offerings.

It was back in the early to mid ‘90s that combo meal deals were launched by the major quick service hamburger chains. The offer encouraged consumers to buy three items for a bundled price that was less than the sum of the three items purchased individually. Consumer acceptance of combo meals was immediate; the deals increased movement of especially profitable menu items and increased order size. However, more recently combo meals lost their appeal and have been declining in popularity for several years. This was disconcerting to QSR hamburger operators as they had become heavily dependent on purchases of combo meals, particularly at main meal occasions. 

As a result of the ongoing combo meal sales decline, we conducted a study in 2012 to gain a better understanding of this trend. The topline findings from that study revealed the following:


Putting a new twist on combo meals has a way of making them new again

The importance of combo meals to the industry pointed to the need to find a way to address this declining servings trend in order to rebuild consumer demand. To that end, a number of chains across the U.S. are returning to their value-driven ways, particularly the major hamburger chains. Over the past six months, one chain after another has introduced value-oriented combo meal choices. In October 2015, Wendy’s introduced a 4 for $4 Meal. At the beginning of 2016, McDonald’s contributed to the value menu war by launching the McPick 2 for $2 offering. Soon thereafter, McDonald’s changed the offer to 2 for $5, with a different product offering. Following the launch of McPick 2 for $2, Burger King followed suit with a 5 for $4 deal. A number of other QSR chains have added a value proposition of one kind or another to their menu, and there are still many others trying to determine if they need to enter the fray to stay competitive.

Obviously, it’s working for some

These new combo meal deals seem to be resonating with consumers. For the first time in a long while, combo meals ordered at QSR hamburger outlets for lunch/dinner are on the rise. Combo meal visits at the hamburger category for these main meal occasions rose 3 percent for the year ending January 2016 compared to the same period a year ago. Simultaneously, visits to the QSR hamburger category for lunch/dinner are down 3 percent.


Combo meal deals drive traffic

The lift in combo meal visits at QSR burger outlets is being driven by consumers indicating that their combo meal purchase was a deal offer. Combo meals purchased on a deal rose from 6 percent for the year ending January 2015 to 7 percent during the same timeframe in the most recent year. While this may seem like a rather small increase, when we consider the size of the hamburger category, this increase translates into a substantial number of combo meal purchases on deal. Specifically, 567 million combo meal visits were reported on deal for the year ending January 2015. For the year ending January 2016 that number rose to 670 million servings – an 18 percent increase. This once again suggests that given the right promotional offer at the right time, dealing can generate positive traffic growth. Further, combo meal visits that were not reported as part of a deal held fairly steady at 2.8 billion for the year ending January 2016 time period vs. 2015. While not increasing in overall volume, this trend was an improvement from prior years.


Impact of recent value wars

A number of questions have been raised by foodservice operators with regard to the impact that these recent value offers are having on the chains that are offering this new value proposition. To better understand the impact of these new “value wars,” we have designed a study to answer questions specific to these new combo meal offers, including:

  • Did the offers attract new buyers?
  • Did the offers increase loyalty at the chains?
  • How broad was the appeal of each offer?
  • What are the purchase dynamics for each operator?
    • Purchase frequency
    • Spend per visit
    • Average spend per buyer
  • Do these offers appeal to value-seekers who are not chain loyal – what is the buyer overlap?

We’ll use our Checkout TrackingSM solution to help answer these questions. This solution provides longitudinal transaction information straight from consumers’ purchase receipts. The analysis will include information on McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. The report is scheduled to launch mid-April 2016.

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January 1, 2016

Enter the Grocerant: Grocery Stores Winning at Foodservice

Grocery stores have it all. They compete in every food category and have a great reputation for variety and freshness. The marketing of prepared foods by grocers has expanded with increased participation, because prepared foods add meaningful sales for top grocers.  

Our data shows in-store dining and take-out of prepared foods from grocers has grown nearly 30 percent since 2008. Estimates of the market size for grocery prepared foods are now nearly $29 billion*. The success of prepared food offerings at grocery has contributed to traditional QSRs’ traffic losses.

 Grocery attracts key restaurant consumers
Over 40 percent of the U.S. population purchases prepared foods from grocery stores. From a potential purchaser perspective, grocery is more than half the size of QSR reach. The purchase rate at grocery lags QSR’s frequency by nearly ten visits in a four-week period. Yet, the purchase rate is impressive given that grocery has far fewer units than QSRs.

 

 

What’s for dinner?
Grocery prepared foods peak at dinner. This meal occasion is tied to the types of prepared foods offered by grocers and the convenience of doing other (stock up) shopping at the same time. The greatest vulnerability for QSR in competing with grocery stores is the evening meal and to a lesser extent, lunch. As prepared foods gain acceptance and more grocers offer more alternatives to fast food, grocers’ competitive edge will improve.

 

 

Loyalty – the next step for grocery stores
Prepared foods purchased at grocery stores are purchased less frequently than foods ordered from a QSR. The majority of buyers who make a prepared foods purchase do so only once or twice in a month. However, watch out for that solid core of heavy QSR buyers who visit grocery stores more than seven times a month. While only 9 percent of overall buyers, they account for 30 percent of the grocery visits for a ready-to-eat meal. 


 

Grocery – a Trojan horse
Those who buy prepared foods at grocery are also above-average users of QSRs. In all cases, grocery prepared food buyers are among the heaviest QSR users. Grocery outlets are building their business on the most important and valuable QSR customer. 

Drivers of demand: variety and healthy options
Visits when prepared foods are purchased from grocery stores are rated higher than QSRs on variety and healthy options. These attributes are among the most important motivators of purchase and customer satisfaction. Grocery prepared foods are also rated higher on freshness and quality. Restaurant operators have to meet their customers’ expectations of the food they offer in order to compete effectively. The QSR advantages tend to be operational or price-oriented, with consumers citing speed of service, value/affordability, and convenient location. 

What’s next?
Many grocers now offer food in specialty categories like Asian, seafood, Italian, Mexican, and barbeque, and some offer comfort foods like meat loaf, pastas, pot roast, and more. Grocers are aiming to cater to all dining needs, including hot, custom-prepared grilled meat, food bars, soups, and sushi. A growing number of grocery stores provide comfortable, casual seating for in-store dining.                                                             

Once again, QSRs are in a battle for market share. This time, grocery stores have taken on the foodservice industry. Increasingly, QSRs need to include grocers as competition and monitor these competitors locally in order to track inroads and market against the features that appeal to their customers.

Learn more about how the grocery channel is changing the foodservice landscape at the NPD Foodservice Summit, April 6-7, 2016. The breakout session The Grocerant: Supermarkets Raise the Bar in Foodservice, will provide new data and fresh insights on this topic.

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January 1, 2016

Delivery – A Growth Opportunity On The Horizon

Historically, consumers had very few meal choices in terms of what could be delivered to them. Pizza and Asian foods were about it. Carry-out/take-out/drive-thru have been the primary options fulfilling consumers’ need for speed and convenience. Recently, restaurant operators have offered convenience by making it easier for customers to obtain a prepared meal through delivery options, particularly in large metropolitan areas. It is obvious consumers find appealing the availability of delivery options beyond traditional pizza and Asian.

Restaurant delivery – beyond traditional pizza delivery – is a growing business

Delivery traffic outside of pizza is growing strongly, up by double-digit rates since 2012, while traditional QSR pizza delivery is on the decline. It must be noted, however, that the decrease in delivery for QSR pizza is primarily attributable to small chains/independents. Delivery options outside of pizza are still relatively small, with roughly six million delivery-related visits in the past year. But there is little doubt that the growth rate for categories outside of QSR pizza will continue on a strong growth path. All types of restaurants are increasingly partnering with delivery services, such as Eat24, GrubHub, and Door Dash, because of the availability of online ordering, particularly through mobile apps.

Eating in is the new eating out

Consumers want the “eat out” experience of quality food, but they’re saving money by having food delivered to their homes. The increase in consumers eating more of their meals at home has been growing for several years. What’s behind the increased demand for restaurant meals that can be eaten at home? It varies. For some, it’s about time constraints and working from home. Others want to spend more time at home with the family and they’ve increased at-home leisure activities.

Our 2013 report, A Look into the Future of Foodservice, revealed restaurant meals purchased for off-premise consumption were expected to outpace overall industry traffic growth over the next decade. How has that played out? While the market has largely been dominated by pizza concepts, there is increasing demand for other types of meals for home delivery. Looking at share of delivery by restaurant category in the period since we produced that report, we see growth in share of delivery for concepts outside of pizza. The share loss for pizza is largely the result of new options becoming more available and consumers wanting something new and different in terms of delivered meals – sandwich, burger and fast casual options in particular. 

New delivery options are being used at all meal occasions

Among the concepts making inroads into the delivery market, delivery usage by meal occasion is vastly different from that for pizza. This suggests the opportunity for growth of delivery is widespread, and not just limited to the dinner meal occasion, as is the case for pizza. CREST® data shows where consumers are prior to ordering delivery – they are typically at home when they decide to use delivery, especially for pizza (73 percent). When they utilize other concepts for delivery, only 44 percent indicate they are at home, while around 25% are at work when choosing delivery. This provides a great targeting opportunity for all restaurants that offer delivery: Target potential and prior users earlier in the day, when adults tend to be at work.

Delivery is convenient and more lucrative for restaurant operators

Delivery is one of the most convenient options a restaurant operator can offer to address consumers’ needs for a convenient meal solution. And restaurant operators have new options available to them when it comes to entering the delivery market. Restaurants no longer need drivers, vehicles, and insurance in order to offer their customers a delivery option. Multiple menu aggregators provide this service. Some work with select restaurants only, some charge restaurants a fee to offer their services and others do a mix of both, charging the customer and restaurant. There’s another delivery option for customers, too. Uber, the taxi app that everyone loves to hate, may have just gotten a little more likable – it’s entering the food-delivery market with the guarantee of lunch and dinner meals delivered in 10 minutes.   

If delivery fits a restaurant operator’s business model and is operationally feasible, now’s the time to consider adding it as an option for customers. It’s one way to stay competitive in a changing foodservice market.

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Press Releases


May 18, 2016

Although Their Numbers are Down, Independent Restaurants Increased Spending with Broadline Distributors the Last Two Years, Reports NPD’s SupplyTrack

Street operators face challenges but remain the heart of the foodservice industry Chicago, May 18, 2016 —If restaurant chains are the backbone of the restaurant industry, then independent restaurants are the heart. Despite declining unit counts for the last two years, independent restaurant operato If restaurant chains are the backbone of the restaurant industry, then independent restaurants are the heart. Despite declining unit counts for the last two years, independent restaurant operators represent a third of broadline foodservice distribution dollars, and their spending has increased year-over-year for the past two years, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company.

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May 17, 2016

U.S. Consumers Love Their Breakfasts and Morning Snacks Whether In- or Away-From-Home

Breakfast occasions to grow by 5 percent over next few years Chicago, May 17, 2016 —Telling Americans that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is a moot point.  They get it.  The consumption of breakfasts and morning snacks, in- and away-from-home, is forecast to grow faster than Telling Americans that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is a moot point. They get it. The consumption of breakfasts and morning snacks, in- and away-from-home, is forecast to grow faster than the U.S. population over the next few years, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Total breakfast occasions, in- and away-from-home, are forecast to grow by 5 percent through 2019, ahead of the expected population growth of 4 percent. Annual morning snack occasions per person, in- and away-from-home, have increased by 17 percent over the past six years, according to NPD’s continual tracking of U.S. eating behaviors.

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March 15, 2016

Despite Turmoil, Europe and Asia Foodservice Markets Continue to Grow, Albeit Slowly

Chicago, March 15, 2016 — For many countries around the globe the remaining months of 2015 were filled with turmoil of various kinds, but in spite of this chaos, citizens of the world continued to dine out and fuel the global foodservice industry’s slow and steady growth, reports The NPD Group, For many countries around the globe the remaining months of 2015 were filled with turmoil of various kinds, but in spite of this chaos, citizens of the world continued to dine out and fuel the global foodservice industry’s slow and steady growth, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Customer traffic made strong contributions to overall consumer spending in most of the markets tracked by NPD’s CREST®, which continually tracks consumer use of foodservice outlets in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, the United States, and now Brazil and Korea.

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March 8, 2016

Millennials Have Nothing on Boomers When It Comes to Snacking

Boomers total about 90.4 billion ready-to-eat snack eatings a year, 20 percent more than Millennials Chicago, March 8, 2016 — Millennials are the shining stars of today’s marketplace but when it comes to snacking — which is all the rage in the food industry — it’s Boomers who shine, finds The NPD G Millennials are the shining stars of today’s marketplace but when it comes to snacking — which is all the rage in the food industry — it’s Boomers who shine, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Boomers eat ready-to-eat snack food 20 percent more often than Millennials do, according to NPD’s daily tracking of U.S. consumers snacking habits.

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February 24, 2016

Total U.S. Restaurant Count Down Slightly from Year Ago; Chain Units Grow and Independents Decline

Restaurant units decline in Chicago and New York metro areas and increase in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Houston Chicago, February 24, 2016 ─ The total U.S. restaurant count decreased slightly (-0.6 percent) from a year ago to 629,488 units, according to a count of U.S. commercial restaurant locations The total U.S. restaurant count decreased slightly (-0.6 percent) from a year ago to 629,488 units, according to a count of U.S. commercial restaurant locations compiled in the spring and fall each year by The NPD Group, a leading global information company. A 2 percent decline in independent restaurant units was the sole contributor to the total restaurant decline, based on NPD’s Fall 2015 ReCount®, which includes restaurants open as of September 30, 2015. Chain restaurant units increased by 1 percent from a year ago from 289,726 to 292,943 units.

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February 16, 2016

U.S. Consumers Are Using Less Dishes and Ingredients in Meal Prep and Eating Occasions are Flat

Food Companies Are Competing for a Larger Share of a Smaller Food and Beverage Pie Chicago, February 16, 2016 —Evolving attitudes and behaviors are creating shifts in the foods and beverages consumers choose. U.S. consumers are using less dishes and ingredients in meal preparation and the number of Evolving attitudes and behaviors are creating shifts in the foods and beverages consumers choose. U.S. consumers are using less dishes and ingredients in meal preparation and the number of food and beverage occasions consumed are flat; as a result major food companies are scrambling to meet these changing needs, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company that has been continually tracking all aspects of how U.S. consumers eat for over three decades. This unprecedented shift in consumer attitudes and behaviors have food manufacturers struggling to find growth in a changing marketplace where legacy brands are ceding share to smaller, new entrants and the store perimeter is outperforming center of the store.

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February 9, 2016

Foodservice Home Delivery, Excluding Pizza, Grows by Double-Digits and Direct-to-Door Meal Kits Are Finding Niche Market

Growing Number of Food Delivery Services Satisfies Consumers’ Expectations for Quick Direct-To-Door Retail Chicago, February 9, 2016 —Food delivery is not a new phenomenon but the accessibility and availability of these direct-to-door home meal services, whether in-home meal kits, like Blue Apron, o Food delivery is not a new phenomenon but the accessibility and availability of these direct-to-door home meal services, whether in-home meal kits, like Blue Apron, or foodservice delivery, like DoorDash, is unprecedented, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Historically, consumers were limited to pizza and Asian foods in terms of delivery or local grocery delivery, but now there are numerous choices. What has also changed from past food delivery is that consumers are now accustomed to ordering goods online and having them delivered to their door quickly.

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February 1, 2016

Although Chipotle Visits Are Down, Young Adults Did Not Desert Them

Chain’s former visitors scattered to a variety of quick service or fast casual outlets, finds NPD Group’s Checkout TrackingSM Chicago, February 1, 2016 — Chipotle’s recent series of food safety outbreaks rattled its investors and enough of its customers to see visits decline, but the chain’s strong —Chain’s former visitors scattered to a variety of quick service or fast casual outlets, finds NPD Group’s Checkout TrackingSM

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January 29, 2016

The NPD Group Introduces Market Mapping Service for Food Businesses

Service offers fact-based behavior framework to locate sources of change and identify opportunities Chicago, January 29, 2016 —Harnessing its 30-plus years of continually tracking all aspects of eating behavior inside and outside the home, The NPD Group, a leading provider of global market informati Service offers fact-based behavior framework to locate sources of change and identify opportunities

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January 13, 2016

New U.S. Dietary Guidelines Tell U.S. Consumers to Say “No” to Sugar and Many Already Do

Chicago, January 13, 2016 — The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are released every five years, were issued last week and one of the new guidelines’ strongest recommendation is something that consumers have already caught on to — limiting sugar intake, reports The NPD Group, a leading gl The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are released every five years, were issued last week and one of the new guidelines’ strongest recommendation is something that consumers have already caught on to — limiting sugar intake, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Overall, U.S. consumers have indicated that sugar is the number one item they try to avoid in their diet and are eating less sugary foods and beverages, according to NPD’s ongoing food consumption research.

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Infographics


February 4, 2016

Quenching Their Thirst For Beverages


February 4, 2016

Naturally, We Eat


December 3, 2015

Fueling the Day With Breakfast


Insights


May 25, 2016

Eat In or Eat Out – What Drive Dinner Choices?

Every day we face multiple choices, both major and minor, when it comes to where and what to eat for dinner. The decisions range from the simple “Am I hungry?” to the not-so-simple “Do I have all the food and beverage components to prepare a meal at home?” Dinner is an essential part of our daily routine, and there is always the question of whether should we eat in or eat out.

As a result of our ever-changing lifestyles, we’re busier than ever, working, taking the kids here and there, attending social events, and on and on. These activities result in many people and their families needing to think seriously about their dinner options on a regular basis.   

Despite busy lives, many choose to eat at home instead of going to a restaurant. The dinner occasion is extremely important to the restaurant industry, with nearly a third of all visits taking place at dinner. Further, dinner accounts for over 40 percent of industry dollars, or said another way, $179 billion annually.    

Trend in source of dinner meals

Since the recession, restaurants have lost share to home prepared meals. In 2015, 20 percent of dinner meals were purchased at a restaurant, down from 23 percent in 2007. This may not seem like a dramatic change until you quantify the magnitude of the loss. On a per capita basis, visits to restaurants for dinner are down 7.5 visits per person over this time period. This decline translates to $23 billion lost dollars on dinner alone. 

These trends result in the need to understand how consumers make dinnertime decisions and identify where there are opportunites for restaurant operators to influence those decisions in order to grow their business at this occasion.  This topic was covered at our recent Foodservice Summit, The Path To Consumption – How Consumers Choose.

                                                     

Source of Dinner Meals


Source:  The NPD Group /Eating Patterns in America 2015

When we decide where to get dinner

We’ve all been there. We’re in the mood for something to eat, but not sure what it is or where we should go. Should we go to a sit-down restaurant, use take-out, or just stay at home and eat in? There are always lots of options available, but that serves only to make the decision-making process more difficult. The question is, when are these decisions made? How often is this decision made at the last minute, and how does that impact the decision to go to a restaurant for dinner? To answer this question, we conducted a proprietary study; results are now available in report form:Eat In or Out? What Drives Dinner Choices.

that the study showed nearly half of the decisions about where to get dinner are made that day. There are two different kinds of consumers: those who plan where to get their dinner in advance and those who make their decision the day of.


 Source: The NPD Group / Eat In or Out? What Drives Dinner Choices Custom Study 2016


Of particular note, the closer we get to dinnertime, the more likely we are to choose a restaurant. Among the last minute decisions, more than a quarter of dinners are won by restaurants. And thecloser we get to the weekend, the more restaurants win the up-for-grab dinners.

Decision drivers for eating dinner in vs. eating dinner at restaurants

Even in challenging times, we find many benefits to visiting restaurants for dinner. Dinner out is considered a treat in a variety of ways. Many continue to point to the fact that there’s work involved with an in-home prepared meal – work from which restaurants spare them. When it comes to eating at home, the decision is largely tied to the cost associated with going out to a restaurant for dinner.



Source: The NPD Group / Eat In or Out? What Drives Dinner Choices Custom Study 2016

Consumers find many benefits to visiting restaurants for dinner

The importance of enticing consumers to leave their homes is especially important at the dinner meal occasion. How do restaurant operators win this battle? The first way to win is with the menu. A restaurant must have menu offerings that beat at-home availability. New menu offerings stimulate interest, and variety, freshness, and quality go a long way in meeting value expectations and the desire for healthier meal options. At the same time, increased focus on the guest experience should have favorable payoff, as many of these visits are driven by loyalty. Superior service and speed of service are critical components of driving customer loyalty. Making customers feel valued is key to building customer loyalty. These are the wants and needs to meet in order to lure consumers off their couches and into a restaurant for dinner. Without fulfilling these needs, potential restaurant visitors will continue to shift their dinner meals to in-home occasions.

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May 23, 2016

Generation, Life Stage, or Both: What’s Behind the Shifts?

The behaviors of the Millennial generation have been highly analyzed and studied, so it shouldn’t be surprising to hear this group prefers fresh foods and beverages and favors healthy snack food choices. The unanswered question until now has been whether these behaviors are attributable to life stage or if they are generational shifts that will carry through the rest of their lives.

Americans have been told for the last 30 years they should consume more vegetables, with little movement from consumers on that initiative. Marketers have attempted to make vegetables more enticing with dips and other additions, but increasing vegetable consumption has been an elusive goal. What’s shifting is where people source vegetables in the grocery store. Our National Eating Trends® data shows nearly half of the vegetables eaten in the 1980s came from the fresh aisle of the store; that has grown to about 60 percent more recently. It’s apparently a zero-sum shift as consumers move away from frozen and canned forms of vegetables in favor of fresh – while keeping their total vegetable consumption levels steady.

We’ve observed that Millennials are a big reason why fresh consumption has been increasing overall, but can we attribute that increase to where they are in their lives? Our new report, A Generational Study: The Evolution of Eating, says Millennials’ shifts reflect a fundamental change in the way they prioritize fresh foods, emphasizing fresh over other forms. When looking at fresh consumption among individuals under the age of 40, it’s happening in greater numbers than it did among their predecessors 10 years ago. We see the opposite dynamic for those older than 40.

Millennials’ consumption of more fresh foods isn’t the whole explanation for their increased usage. Another key dynamic for fresh foods is that people tend to consume more of them as they age. We should expect this to continue for Millennials as well, who are already consuming more fresh foods than those at the equivalent life stage 10 years ago, but Boomers have hit a life stage when people typically consume the most fresh items in their lives. Despite the fact that Boomers aren’t consuming fresh foods in the same quantities as previous generations did at their age, the sheer size of their group is large enough to continue driving fresh consumption higher.

Source: The NPD Group/National Eating Trends® (NET®), Years Ending February

*Fresh food defined as fresh fruit, vegetables, refrigerated meats, poultry, fish, and eggs
End dish and additive/ingredient uses

Changing snack food consumption is another hot topic, but the drivers of change differ from what’s driving growth in fresh foods and beverages. Looking at snack foods consumed during snack occasions, Millennials do not appear to be outliers. The changes we’re observing there are mostly attributable to overall increases with each generation as well as the natural tendency to snack more often with age. 

To learn more about generational versus life stage shifts in consumption contact darren.seifer@npd.com.

 


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April 25, 2016

Do These Pants Make Me Look Vegan?

Wellness. The term is so ubiquitous nowadays that we rarely stop to think about it outside of the context of juicing, yoga, and expensive sweatpants. What does it actually mean to be well, and what does it mean to adopt a healthy lifestyle?

From spiralizers and coloring books, to burritos and boots that are sustainably-produced – consumers are buying all sorts of products to help them feel and look better. What else do they eat, buy, and wear to embody healthy living?

Read on for shopping trends in food, home, fitness, tech, fashion, beauty, and more industries. Discover what the top-growing retail categories have in common, how the wellness craze is playing out across different generations, and what it means for you as a manufacturer or retailer.

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March 3, 2016

Winning Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers With the Five Ws

Every journalist and student in America knows the so-called five Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. It turns out the same five Ws are also the most basic forms of consumer segmentation.

But relationships among the five Ws of shopping are a bit more complex than they are among the five Ws of writing. And the tales they tell are illuminating.

We shared online and brick-and-mortar, receipt-based data from our Checkout TrackingSM service with researchers from the Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania. The study revealed the what and the why of consumer purchases are linked to the when of consumers’ lifestyles. In other words, when people have babies, they buy baby things. But the how and where of purchases are tied to who a consumer is by generation.

Even when the other four Ws are the same, it’s who we are – Boomer, Gen X, or Millennial – that makes all the difference.

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February 25, 2016

Marketing To Visit Situations

The restaurant industry is not just a single business

Within any industry, purchase decisions are influenced by a variety of consumer needs. With restaurants, the decision is not simply whether to have lunch at a restaurant. Other factors come into play: to have it alone or with others, to dine in the restaurant, or to take the food away to eat it somewhere else. 

After deciding to eat food from a restaurant, then it’s time to decide where to source the food. An operator might be in the breakfast, lunch, supper, or snack business. On-premises service, carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery options may be available. Beyond that, does the operator focus on weekend or weekday business? Does the operator appeal to families with kids or only to adults? Needless to say, many factors go into the process of deciding where to get food and beverages.

Visit situations defined

When creating the visit situations associated with the CREST® database, we segmented the purchase occasions being reported against all of the component factors our panelists are asked to record (daypart, weekpart, where purchased, where eaten, prior activity, and party composition). The end result was 18 unique visit situations. Shown below are the unique situations in rank order of those garnering the greatest share of traffic.

These unique visit situations were created to help define the consumer needs restaurant operators and their supplier partners must consider as they develop marketing strategies and product offerings. The needs to be satisfied and the visit situation that leverages the most significant traffic volume for that concept will vary depending on restaurant type.  

Ranking visit situations

QSR clearly has been the segment driving overall industry performance – CREST shows 76 percent of commercial restaurant traffic moves through QSR channels. Presented below are the visit situation rankings for QSR visits. They closely reflect the visit situation rankings for the total restaurant industry.

QSRs have grown for several years at the morning meal. This growth is shown in the growth of the fast breakfast visit situation. A number of the growing QSR visit situations are those recently noted in our CREST Executive Topline: weekday occasions that satisfy the need for a quick, convenient meal. This is a growing need in the marketplace.  

Ranking visit situations for full service restaurants

Not too surprisingly, there was little to no growth among the unique visit situations applied to visits made to full service restaurants. It has been a very challenging environment for many of these concepts – particularly for independents, as they are a dominant force in this segment. Within the midscale segment, the importance of “full breakfast” is well known. However, the “out to lunch” visit situation also contributes considerable volume to midscale concepts and warrants attention, as visits have declined in recent years.

Casual dining concepts didn’t fare much better than midscale outlets when we evaluated top visit situations. Nearly all of the situations that account for sizeable traffic contribution are declining. The exception is “a bite at night,” where visits have increased by 2 percent over the past year.

Importance of understanding visit situation marketing

While we have provided a snapshot of the consumer needs satisfied for each segment by visit situation, more insight that can be gleaned by viewing an operator’s business in this manner. The visit situation analysis identifies:

  • The size of opportunity offered by each consumer need (situation)
  • The relative position the chain holds within each situation, where the chain is well developed and/or under-developed (its strengths and weaknesses)
  • The competitors of importance within each situation
  • The customers to target with advertising/promotions in order to strengthen a chain’s position in selected situations

By evaluating these unique visit situations for a chain or a restaurant category, we can find pockets of growth where needs are being satisfied, regardless of overall chain/category performance. This lets restaurant operators and their suppliers focus on key situations that are growing and develop tactics and strategies for continued growth. Analysis of visit situations allows companies to identify the situations that leverage a sizeable amount of traffic, and those that need attention to in order to increase consumer visits. Developing marketing strategies based on the unique needs being satisfied or not satisfied could go a long way in helping an operator appeal to consumers and attracting more visits.

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January 1, 2016

Value Wars – A New Twist On Combo Meal Deals

The QSR segment has been known for offering consumers combo meal deals and lower-priced value menu options. The focus on lower-priced options has been relatively quiet for a number of years, particularly following the recent recession. In an attempt to move consumers away from expecting ongoing steep discounts and to compete more effectively with fast casual operators, many large quick service chains had focused their marketing strategies on quality and more premium product offerings.

It was back in the early to mid ‘90s that combo meal deals were launched by the major quick service hamburger chains. The offer encouraged consumers to buy three items for a bundled price that was less than the sum of the three items purchased individually. Consumer acceptance of combo meals was immediate; the deals increased movement of especially profitable menu items and increased order size. However, more recently combo meals lost their appeal and have been declining in popularity for several years. This was disconcerting to QSR hamburger operators as they had become heavily dependent on purchases of combo meals, particularly at main meal occasions. 

As a result of the ongoing combo meal sales decline, we conducted a study in 2012 to gain a better understanding of this trend. The topline findings from that study revealed the following:


Putting a new twist on combo meals has a way of making them new again

The importance of combo meals to the industry pointed to the need to find a way to address this declining servings trend in order to rebuild consumer demand. To that end, a number of chains across the U.S. are returning to their value-driven ways, particularly the major hamburger chains. Over the past six months, one chain after another has introduced value-oriented combo meal choices. In October 2015, Wendy’s introduced a 4 for $4 Meal. At the beginning of 2016, McDonald’s contributed to the value menu war by launching the McPick 2 for $2 offering. Soon thereafter, McDonald’s changed the offer to 2 for $5, with a different product offering. Following the launch of McPick 2 for $2, Burger King followed suit with a 5 for $4 deal. A number of other QSR chains have added a value proposition of one kind or another to their menu, and there are still many others trying to determine if they need to enter the fray to stay competitive.

Obviously, it’s working for some

These new combo meal deals seem to be resonating with consumers. For the first time in a long while, combo meals ordered at QSR hamburger outlets for lunch/dinner are on the rise. Combo meal visits at the hamburger category for these main meal occasions rose 3 percent for the year ending January 2016 compared to the same period a year ago. Simultaneously, visits to the QSR hamburger category for lunch/dinner are down 3 percent.


Combo meal deals drive traffic

The lift in combo meal visits at QSR burger outlets is being driven by consumers indicating that their combo meal purchase was a deal offer. Combo meals purchased on a deal rose from 6 percent for the year ending January 2015 to 7 percent during the same timeframe in the most recent year. While this may seem like a rather small increase, when we consider the size of the hamburger category, this increase translates into a substantial number of combo meal purchases on deal. Specifically, 567 million combo meal visits were reported on deal for the year ending January 2015. For the year ending January 2016 that number rose to 670 million servings – an 18 percent increase. This once again suggests that given the right promotional offer at the right time, dealing can generate positive traffic growth. Further, combo meal visits that were not reported as part of a deal held fairly steady at 2.8 billion for the year ending January 2016 time period vs. 2015. While not increasing in overall volume, this trend was an improvement from prior years.


Impact of recent value wars

A number of questions have been raised by foodservice operators with regard to the impact that these recent value offers are having on the chains that are offering this new value proposition. To better understand the impact of these new “value wars,” we have designed a study to answer questions specific to these new combo meal offers, including:

  • Did the offers attract new buyers?
  • Did the offers increase loyalty at the chains?
  • How broad was the appeal of each offer?
  • What are the purchase dynamics for each operator?
    • Purchase frequency
    • Spend per visit
    • Average spend per buyer
  • Do these offers appeal to value-seekers who are not chain loyal – what is the buyer overlap?

We’ll use our Checkout TrackingSM solution to help answer these questions. This solution provides longitudinal transaction information straight from consumers’ purchase receipts. The analysis will include information on McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. The report is scheduled to launch mid-April 2016.

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January 1, 2016

Enter the Grocerant: Grocery Stores Winning at Foodservice

Grocery stores have it all. They compete in every food category and have a great reputation for variety and freshness. The marketing of prepared foods by grocers has expanded with increased participation, because prepared foods add meaningful sales for top grocers.  

Our data shows in-store dining and take-out of prepared foods from grocers has grown nearly 30 percent since 2008. Estimates of the market size for grocery prepared foods are now nearly $29 billion*. The success of prepared food offerings at grocery has contributed to traditional QSRs’ traffic losses.

 Grocery attracts key restaurant consumers
Over 40 percent of the U.S. population purchases prepared foods from grocery stores. From a potential purchaser perspective, grocery is more than half the size of QSR reach. The purchase rate at grocery lags QSR’s frequency by nearly ten visits in a four-week period. Yet, the purchase rate is impressive given that grocery has far fewer units than QSRs.

 

 

What’s for dinner?
Grocery prepared foods peak at dinner. This meal occasion is tied to the types of prepared foods offered by grocers and the convenience of doing other (stock up) shopping at the same time. The greatest vulnerability for QSR in competing with grocery stores is the evening meal and to a lesser extent, lunch. As prepared foods gain acceptance and more grocers offer more alternatives to fast food, grocers’ competitive edge will improve.

 

 

Loyalty – the next step for grocery stores
Prepared foods purchased at grocery stores are purchased less frequently than foods ordered from a QSR. The majority of buyers who make a prepared foods purchase do so only once or twice in a month. However, watch out for that solid core of heavy QSR buyers who visit grocery stores more than seven times a month. While only 9 percent of overall buyers, they account for 30 percent of the grocery visits for a ready-to-eat meal. 


 

Grocery – a Trojan horse
Those who buy prepared foods at grocery are also above-average users of QSRs. In all cases, grocery prepared food buyers are among the heaviest QSR users. Grocery outlets are building their business on the most important and valuable QSR customer. 

Drivers of demand: variety and healthy options
Visits when prepared foods are purchased from grocery stores are rated higher than QSRs on variety and healthy options. These attributes are among the most important motivators of purchase and customer satisfaction. Grocery prepared foods are also rated higher on freshness and quality. Restaurant operators have to meet their customers’ expectations of the food they offer in order to compete effectively. The QSR advantages tend to be operational or price-oriented, with consumers citing speed of service, value/affordability, and convenient location. 

What’s next?
Many grocers now offer food in specialty categories like Asian, seafood, Italian, Mexican, and barbeque, and some offer comfort foods like meat loaf, pastas, pot roast, and more. Grocers are aiming to cater to all dining needs, including hot, custom-prepared grilled meat, food bars, soups, and sushi. A growing number of grocery stores provide comfortable, casual seating for in-store dining.                                                             

Once again, QSRs are in a battle for market share. This time, grocery stores have taken on the foodservice industry. Increasingly, QSRs need to include grocers as competition and monitor these competitors locally in order to track inroads and market against the features that appeal to their customers.

Learn more about how the grocery channel is changing the foodservice landscape at the NPD Foodservice Summit, April 6-7, 2016. The breakout session The Grocerant: Supermarkets Raise the Bar in Foodservice, will provide new data and fresh insights on this topic.

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January 1, 2016

Delivery – A Growth Opportunity On The Horizon

Historically, consumers had very few meal choices in terms of what could be delivered to them. Pizza and Asian foods were about it. Carry-out/take-out/drive-thru have been the primary options fulfilling consumers’ need for speed and convenience. Recently, restaurant operators have offered convenience by making it easier for customers to obtain a prepared meal through delivery options, particularly in large metropolitan areas. It is obvious consumers find appealing the availability of delivery options beyond traditional pizza and Asian.

Restaurant delivery – beyond traditional pizza delivery – is a growing business

Delivery traffic outside of pizza is growing strongly, up by double-digit rates since 2012, while traditional QSR pizza delivery is on the decline. It must be noted, however, that the decrease in delivery for QSR pizza is primarily attributable to small chains/independents. Delivery options outside of pizza are still relatively small, with roughly six million delivery-related visits in the past year. But there is little doubt that the growth rate for categories outside of QSR pizza will continue on a strong growth path. All types of restaurants are increasingly partnering with delivery services, such as Eat24, GrubHub, and Door Dash, because of the availability of online ordering, particularly through mobile apps.

Eating in is the new eating out

Consumers want the “eat out” experience of quality food, but they’re saving money by having food delivered to their homes. The increase in consumers eating more of their meals at home has been growing for several years. What’s behind the increased demand for restaurant meals that can be eaten at home? It varies. For some, it’s about time constraints and working from home. Others want to spend more time at home with the family and they’ve increased at-home leisure activities.

Our 2013 report, A Look into the Future of Foodservice, revealed restaurant meals purchased for off-premise consumption were expected to outpace overall industry traffic growth over the next decade. How has that played out? While the market has largely been dominated by pizza concepts, there is increasing demand for other types of meals for home delivery. Looking at share of delivery by restaurant category in the period since we produced that report, we see growth in share of delivery for concepts outside of pizza. The share loss for pizza is largely the result of new options becoming more available and consumers wanting something new and different in terms of delivered meals – sandwich, burger and fast casual options in particular. 

New delivery options are being used at all meal occasions

Among the concepts making inroads into the delivery market, delivery usage by meal occasion is vastly different from that for pizza. This suggests the opportunity for growth of delivery is widespread, and not just limited to the dinner meal occasion, as is the case for pizza. CREST® data shows where consumers are prior to ordering delivery – they are typically at home when they decide to use delivery, especially for pizza (73 percent). When they utilize other concepts for delivery, only 44 percent indicate they are at home, while around 25% are at work when choosing delivery. This provides a great targeting opportunity for all restaurants that offer delivery: Target potential and prior users earlier in the day, when adults tend to be at work.

Delivery is convenient and more lucrative for restaurant operators

Delivery is one of the most convenient options a restaurant operator can offer to address consumers’ needs for a convenient meal solution. And restaurant operators have new options available to them when it comes to entering the delivery market. Restaurants no longer need drivers, vehicles, and insurance in order to offer their customers a delivery option. Multiple menu aggregators provide this service. Some work with select restaurants only, some charge restaurants a fee to offer their services and others do a mix of both, charging the customer and restaurant. There’s another delivery option for customers, too. Uber, the taxi app that everyone loves to hate, may have just gotten a little more likable – it’s entering the food-delivery market with the guarantee of lunch and dinner meals delivered in 10 minutes.   

If delivery fits a restaurant operator’s business model and is operationally feasible, now’s the time to consider adding it as an option for customers. It’s one way to stay competitive in a changing foodservice market.

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December 10, 2015

Foodservice Brief — March 2016


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December 10, 2015

Food For Thought: Food and Beverage Habits To Expect In 2016

What we eat and drink each year might not change as quickly as the mobile phones we carry in our pockets, but food and beverage marketers should not take this as a license to rest on their laurels. Change has been brewing for decades.


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Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts


March 4, 2016

“There’s a war on sugar – not candy”

I just returned from the National Confectioners Association’s State of the Industry conference where the phrase, “There’s a war on sugar – not candy,”  seemed to be a recurring theme. In today’s age of sugar avoidance, it might seem like a Hail Mary pass from an industry trying to navigate through tough headwinds, but when you look at consumers’  actual wants and needs it makes sense.

For full disclosure, I am one of the many people who want to avoid sugar in their diets and I actively try to avoid sweets whenever possible. I make eggs in the morning to avoid the simple carbs in many cold cereals, at lunch I opt for whole wheat bread for my sandwiches, and at dinner I try to use vegetables as side dishes and avoid rice and bread.

Every once in a while, however, I’ll get a craving for some nice chocolate and when I sink my teeth into it, I feel a rush of satisfaction and forget all the thoughts about avoiding sugar because my mouth AND mind are experiencing such a degree of bliss.

NPD’s ongoing snacking research reflects similar sentiments among consumers when it comes to their sweets. They try to avoid them, but they love them nonetheless. When you look at what we snack on over the course of the day, better-for-you items like fruit, yogurt, and savory snacks are the snacks of choice earlier in the day. It’s not until around 8 pm that we allow ourselves sweet indulgences. Maybe we want to reward ourselves for being good up to that point or are so tired our discipline is depleted.

This is why I’ve said during my snacking presentations that it’s not a matter of altering candy products to appeal to those who are watching their sugar intake, it’s a matter of  appealing to the wants and emotions of consumers at the time of day when they are most likely to indulge in sweets. Point being that there is no war on candy…at least not in the evening.

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December 9, 2015

That Was Then

If you’re old enough (and you probably aren’t), you remember when chicken sandwiches were once new, innovative items on fast food menus. And then, when fried chicken took on a less-than-healthful patina, grilled chicken sandwiches were brought in to address issues of healthy preparation.  One wonders where the grill lines came from in restaurants that had no char broilers?

In the late ’80′s we were pretty limited in how we asked consumers what they ate.  Due to the space constraints in the CREST foodservice market research paper diary we used in those days, we could only present consumers with a (pretty short) list of possible items.  One drawback to this was that consumers might tell us they had a food item at a chain that we knew the chain didn’t sell.

This brings me back to chicken sandwiches.  We found that consumers were reporting a fair number of broiled chicken sandwiches at a chain that we knew did not offer broiled chicken sandwiches.  When we looked into this more carefully we found that lower income men were reporting fried chicken sandwiches, just as they should have.  Higher income women, exactly the people you’d think would be eating broiled chicken, were reporting broiled chicken sandwiches. That is, the people who wanted fried, reported fried. The people who aspired to broiled reported broiled.

That was then.

Nowadays in the US we ask a whole bunch more stuff about what people are eating in our CREST consumer foodservice research.  We ask toppings.  We ask bread type.  We ask salad dressing.  We even ask if the consumer used flavored cream in their coffee. For the largest chains we insert the chain’s menu into the questionnaire. We also present the respondents with a bunch of attributes (organic, low fat, gluten free, locally sourced and bunches more) and ask if any of these attributes apply to the foods they ate in the meal they are telling us about.

So, here’s the cool thing:  we can look at different demographic groups and see what kinds of attributes the foods they’re eating have.  And, because we’re analysts, we can compare them and jump to conclusions. Because of the chicken sandwich experience, I was sure that the Millennials would be all over the “organic” and whatever while Boomers would skew to “low sodium” and stuff like that.  Y’d think, wouldn’t ya?

But, and this is always a disappointment to an analyst, there isn’t much of a difference between young’ns and old’ns.  Yes, the young are more likely than the old to identify some sort of attribute. And, yes older consumers are more likely to say “healthy” and young ones “high protein,” but there isn’t much difference for things like “organic” or “vegetarian” or even “low sodium.” These attributes amount to and offer that which appeals to everyone. And people are taking restaurants (even chains) up on that offer more and more.

BUT…not all organic food has an equal chance of being Snapchatted.

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December 1, 2015

It’s A Chicken! It’s A Doughnut! It’s A Chicken Doughnut!

Everyone is on the qui vive for the next wildly inventive food fad. Who knows, maybe for the next fad even people living here around the global food blog’s mountain redoubt will get a chance to eat/see the exciting new thing. We can all hope.

Remember when there was no Cajun food outside of Louisiana?  Probably not.  You have to be kind of old to remember when Paul Prudhomme published his first cookbook and the country went crazy for all things Cajun.  There was a surfeit of new Cajun restaurants in Chicago and non-Cajun restaurants all had “blackened something” on their menus.

No sooner had the excitement settled into a dull roar than the food press began talking about the “next Cajun.”  Would it be Jamaican?  Maybe Indian (still waiting).  Could it be Middle Eastern? These days we’re thinking that maybe Peruvian could be it. The truth is that nothing has hit the food world quite like Cajun did in 1983 and 84.  And don’t tell me Mexican;  that just means you’re from the Northeast.  And don’t tell me Thai; that predates Cajun in my food timeline.

Then the Cronut came along and, in its own way, became the next Cajun.  Sorta.  I’m pretty sure the words written about the Cronut out number the count of the people who ate the real thing by a factor of about 10.  It spawned the phrase “the next Cronut.”

Speaking of the next Cronut, we’re getting ready to launch CREST Korea, our ongoing foodservice market research. We’ve already done a pilot to prepare for the launch and found that:

1.  Koreans (like everyone) like their own food and their own brands.  The fast food landscape is dominated by Korean chains.

2.  Coffee and Cafes play a larger role in the Korean foodservice market than you might expect.

3.  Bakeries?  Who knew?…including Paris Baguette, which was recently identified by a US trade mag as being “French.” One look at the place, with the self service, the trays, and the tongs tells you this is Asian, not European.

4. Bulgogi is delightful.  OK, that’s not the data talking.  That’s me.  But it is, 100%, a fact.

So now we and our CREST Korea clients are ready. Data collection will kick off on 1 January and will continue (as I tell everyone) until the end of time; just as is the case in any of the 12 countries where we have a CREST service. This spell of time before launch, no matter how far in advance we start, is always kind of frantic as we review build-after-build of the questionnaire until it’s just right…then we will translate it to Korean and start all over again.

Part of that process is to actually take the questionnaire over and over again to see if it breaks during any sequence of answers.  It’s good to have an actual visit to a restaurant in mind when taking the questionnaire or a person can get lost. For the big chains, we present respondents with the chain’s actual menu to tell us what they had to eat or drink.

And, there on Burger King Korea’s menu, as I was testing the questionnaire, were the words “chicken doughnut.”  Those two words, chicken and doughnut, together for the first time. You don’t need a good reason to go to Seoul. It’s lovely.  And the Koreans do things with chicken that will make you smack your lips.

But if you want a shot at the next big thing? Chicken Doughnuts.  ’Nuff said.

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December 13, 2012

Food TruckinˈAlong

Is there anything in the foodservice business that is more appealing than a Taco Truck? As a former restaurant guy, I have to say that the idea that all I need is a kitchen with wheels and no dining room, and that I can move that kitchen to where the people are, is an appealing idea.  No servers.  No reservations.

The beauty of food trucks is that they offer the independent restaurateur the opportunity to get a concept up and running at a much smaller investment and risk than signing a lease and staffing up a full service place. It’s no surprise that these have been emerging just at the time when the number of independent restaurants has been steadily dropping.  Here’s a cute little video that articulates just that, so I like it a lot.

The NPD Group office is in a suburban office complex.  As a result, we don’t see a lot of food trucks in our neighborhood.  So, we were a little out of the loop when people began to ask us about the “trend” in food trucks.  But, we saw the light and began to figure out how to capture this.

It’s not as easy as it sounds.  For one thing, long before there were the food trucks that everyone talks about there were the famous “roach coaches” that ply construction sites, machine shops or other places where people have little time to go to lunch and no on-site services.  We’re pretty sure that no one is any more interested in them than they have been for the past 35 years.

So, it’s a very fine slice of the market to find.  As part of our regular CREST foodservice market research questionnaire update, we gave people the option to tell us that they had purchased the food from a food truck in addition to all the other possible answers.  About 0.1% did so in the test. The pie chart depicting this is below.

Now, before you all get all r-squared on me and ask about sample biases and all those things that people do when their preconceptions aren’t supported by data, let’s think about it.  There are nearly 600,000 restaurants in the U.S.

Richard Myrick of Mobile Cuisine Magazine guesses that there are between three and four thousand high-end food trucks and near 3 million traditional food trucks (I don’t have the data and I don’t want to get all r-squared on the guy but that would mean more than 13,000 per DMA, which seems like a lot).

So, let’s go back to the 4 thousand.  Add those to the just-shy-of-600,000 restaurants and you get, more or less, roughly 600,000 outlets….high-end food trucks account for about 0.7% of available outlets.  Given that the trucks have a smaller capacity than most restaurants, this relationship (.7% to .1%) makes sense.

Now, let’s think about how much business they might do…there are 300 million people in the U.S. About 46% of them buy a prepared meal or snack in a day. Those that do, do so between 1.1 and 1.3 times in that day.  So…carry the three…that’s about 170 million visits of all sorts in a given day. And, the .1% of those visits would be…borrow a one…170,000 food truck visits, which would mean that every one of those 4,000 gourmet food truck owners would be serving about 50 people EACH AND EVERY DAY.  RAIN OR SHINE.  WINTER OR SUMMER.  PORTLAND OR CHICAGO. Given that that would be the average. And, given that this doesn’t take into account the traditional trucks, and given the lack of regulatory support for them and the seasonal variation in many cities, this adds up to a niche market segment that has great appeal within its niche.

So, the truth is somewhere in between.

The march seems inexorable.  Here’s a New York Times article about food trucks in Paris.  And here’s an actual food truck that I came across in Mexico City called Frijolero.  Note the greenery to the right of the door.  Nice truck!


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