Foodservice Brief — September 2014
Many of the foods Americans consider “comfort foods” seem to be making a comeback, but in a different way. Some of the hottest chefs in America are taking these old favorites and infusing them with high-end ingredients.
The list of foods thought of as comfort food is wide and varied. But there is one thing almost everyone can agree on: everyone has at least one favorite comfort food dish. From a main dish standpoint, roast beef with root vegetables, meatloaf, baked chicken, pastas, chili, stews, pot pies, and certain vegetarian entrees all fit into the comfort category, and this list could easily be expanded. Many side dishes also make the comfort food list, including macaroni and cheese, followed by others like mashed or baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, non-fried vegetables, and soups. There’s no shortage of options when Americans crave comfort foods.
With all of the stress of day-to-day living, economic pressures, and more, consumers are taking a trip down memory lane with the nostalgic items seen on menus. Many times these comfort foods offer reminders of the good old days. They are full of memories, and they’re usually relatively inexpensive. This is particularly important at a time of protracted economic concern. Consumers want to visit restaurants, but they also want to watch how much they spend on restaurant-prepared meals.
Fall and winter are the seasons when we’re most likely to hear people talk about eating comfort food, and with good reason. These warming, comforting foods help consumers cope with having less daylight and a return to colder temperatures. Rarely during the summer months does someone say “I’m headed home to make some comfort food.” There definitely is a season when people are more inclined to eat comfort food. Additionally, as we move into the fall season, there’s an abundance of fruits and vegetables that have been growing all summer.
Seasonality Index — Comfort Foods
Source: The NPD Group/CREST®, seasonal quarters — 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
|Chicken Fried Steak||Beans — Non-Refried|
|Roast Beef/Prime Rib||Mashed Potatoes|
|Fried Chicken||Non-Fried Vegetables|
|Baked/Rotisserie Chicken||Fried Vegetables|
|Macaroni & Cheese||Pies|
With cooler temperatures in much of the country and fall arriving, what comfort foods are you planning to offer? To generate excitement and interest in your brand, consider adding a limited time offer to your promotion initiatives. Promote daily specials. Creating excitement around a product that will be available for only a short period of time creates a sense of urgency around it — consumers want to get it before it’s gone.
In today’s marketplace, consumer demand for variety, product quality, freshness, and healthier options is on the increase. Consumers are not inclined to prepare comfort food dishes at home. Making them aware they can count on your brand for comfort foods with high-end ingredients, or with a new twist, will help drive traffic through the doors and make premium pricing a possibility.