Whether you run a restaurant, cater for large groups, or are a supplier for the food service industry, the success of your business depends on keeping up with the latest trends.
You’ve probably read all you can about all the hottest flavors and cooking methods of the season— fresh-squeezed juice drinks with added nutritional supplements, products such as snacks, dips, and frozen treats made with Greek yogurt and kale and bacon in almost every kind of dish imaginable. And while these trends give you important insight into how to win the hearts of consumers in 2014, it is just as important to be familiar with the trends that Americans do not find so enticing.
Avoid falling into the trap of offering consumers what they do not want and in the process, forgetting to cater to their tastes.
Fast Food Still Does Not Equate to Salads
Health-conscious consumers can find salads nearly everywhere. Side salads or main course salads are available at fast food restaurants from Taco Bell, Domino’s, and Pizza Hut to burger joints like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. But the fact that consumers have been more conscious about eating more healthfully does not mean that the want them from fast food restaurants.
McDonalds can offer a salad, but that does not mean that consumers will always purchase them. In fact, according to Bloomberg, salads make up only 2 to 3 percent of total sales at McDonalds.
As further evidence that Americans do not seem to want healthy food when they go to fast food establishments, Burger King is no longer offering its fruit and walnut salad as a dessert or breakfast option. The high-fat crispy chicken salad, however, is among the salads still on the menu at Burger King.
Don’t Miss New Consumer Perceptions of “Healthy” Food
“Healthy” seems to depend on who is using it and what the context is. During select periods in previous years, consumers looked for terms such as “low-fat” and “sugar-free” to help them select “healthy” foods. In 2014, these descriptors no longer cut it. Wary consumers may interpret “low-fat” as “high-carbohydrate” – think pasta, potatoes, and bread – and “sugar-free” as containing artificial sweeteners like the aspartame or Splenda found in sugar-free ice cream, candy, and soft drinks.
The natural, organic, and local movements are gaining ground as today’s consumers seem to associate these with better health. Capitalize on this trend when possible by advertising your use of all-natural, organic, and local ingredients and by publicizing your support of farmer’s markets. Reformulating your products to make them low-fat or sugar-free, on the other hand, may not be worth the effort.
Don’t Sacrifice Quality for Price
Americans are lucky to enjoy a steady variety of high-quality food at relatively inexpensive prices. As we emerge from the Great Recession, consumers seem unwilling to give up on quality in order to get the lowest prices. Consumers do not want to order the single burger that is listed on the menu; they want to individually select the ingredients in their burrito or sandwich as seen at Chipotle and Subway, respectively.
These custom orders make the meal slower and more expensive, but the consumer is willing to wait and pay.
What this means for you as a leader in the food service industry is that you still need to focus on quality. That may mean paying a bit extra to order restaurant and cafeteria supplies from a more trusted supplier with a better track record, or investment extra time and money in setting up your establishment to be able to take custom orders and make them on the spot.
Do Not Overlook the Importance of Service
Your establishment can offer the hottest foods in the country, but your food service business will not be successful if it is not attentive to the dos and don’ts of customer service. Do your best to avoid offending or disappointing customers as such poor reviews can destroy your reputation and business. With trendy foods and good customer service, your business can be well on the way to a successful 2014.