While the restaurant industry has undoubtedly seen its downturns, things are looking up for owners in the latter half of 2017, as consumers—for the first time in decades—are spending more on eating out than on groceries and eating at home. It looks like the downturn of retail is also having a positive impact on restaurants as well, as Americans' spending dollars are shifting. While we can attribute many of these upturns in the industry to the advancements in food service technology, we wanted to explore further how restaurant owners can take advantage of this surge in spending.
There is a palpable excitement in the restaurant industry these days. We cannot predict every upturn or downturn in the market, we do have some promising news to share.
Restaurant Trends You Need to Know
1. Americans are spending more on dining out than groceries.
As this chart shows, Americans are now spending more of their food dollars on eating out than at grocery stores and eating at home. For decades, this has been the reverse, so we had to ask, why the sudden change in our spending? It appears that these metrics have been changing for some time, starting in the 1970s when more women were leaving their domestic roles for work outside of the home:
Americans have been consuming a larger and larger amount of their food away from home. It’s a well-established pattern stretching back to the 1970s that reflects the surge of female participation in the labor force outside domestic labor. (Source: No One Cooks Anymore, Quartz.)
While this may not be a huge surprise, 2016 is the first time that we have officially spent more on eating out. While we would love to attribute this surge in spending solely on exciting food trends and restaurant experiences that are taking Americans by storm, these are not the only precursors to this trend. It appears that the rising prices of groceries have more to do with why Americans are spending less on food at home than restaurants suddenly doing something to attract larger revenue streams:
Part of this reflects stagnant prices of groceries over the last year or so, with US grocery stores—Walmart is the biggest—competing with the rock bottom pricing of dollar stores. For example, over the last year, dairy and meat prices have dropped sharply. (Source: No One Cooks Anymore, Quartz.)
It also appears that this trend of us choosing restaurants over our home fare isn’t changing anytime soon. The good news for restaurant owners: this is the new normal.
The amount we spend on food outside the home has risen from about 26% in 1970 to 43% in 2012, and there's no indication this "new normal" will reverse anytime soon. (Source: Martha C. White, Time.com)
How can we take advantage of this shift in the behavior of our consumers? Consumers are leaving the house more to eat, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll find us. Today’s consumers are more adventurous in their food choices, are looking for more convenient ways to eat out, as well as spending more money on nights out with friends. If we want to attract consumers to our establishments, we have to offer great food paired with great experiences.
2. We are spending less at the malls and more on meals out with friends.
Today’s consumers’ tastes are changing. It’s not just about buying stuff at the mall—“American’s are shifting their spending from materialism to meals out with friends.” It appears that we are now valuing experience over materialism and that is an exciting turn for bars and restaurants. We now spend more on travel and experiences than we have in the past few decades. Americans are choosing satisfying memories they can savor and share with friends on Instagram, over retail purchases. Smart restaurants are taking advantage of these changes with memorable food, events, and décor. It's all about giving customers something to share online.
3. Our tastes are growing more adventurous!
We are a society becoming obsessed with new food trends. Not only is Instagram full of the most beautiful plates full of food, but it is also a place to explore our latest food finds—from the best Pad Thai to bone broth, to smoked chorizo breakfast wraps—we are demanding more choices than ever before. Great chefs and restaurant owners are pushing themselves to give us food experiences, not just serve us great tasting food. That’s why we love the story of Eggslut, whose approach on breakfast sandwiches has connected with Americans.
“In general, I think we’re eating better than in any time in dining history. We’re eating more adventurously.” Anthony Bourdain.
The Story of Eggslut: Why Consumers Are Flocking for Breakfast Again
What began as the dream of founder and chef, Alvin Cailan has become a multi-city experience that has customers lining up around the block to taste the creamy, silky, egg creations. This is their story from the Eggslut website:
Eggslut is a chef driven, gourmet food concept founded in 2011. It's inspired by a true love for eggs. The menu is a balance of comfort and innovation, celebrating food that appeals to both novice and extreme foodie through classic comfort fare with a twist, all-encompassing our key ingredient, eggs. Our goal is to share our food with everyone. No longer just a breakfast staple, we make eggs appetizing all day, every day.
With several successful locations, chef Cailan seems to be doing many things right. With a signature dish and the perfect scrambled eggs, attention to quality ingredients, and a fun brand, there are many components of the Eggslut success story that we can admire. While the food is above reproach, we couldn’t help but wonder if there is more to this story than just a passion for the humble egg. We think there so. Eggslut proves that it is the sum of the experiences that get people flocking to your restaurant, not just one signature dish.
What Makes a Successful Restaurant Today?
What makes a successful restaurant in today's fanatical, Instagram-it-for-all-to-admire, passionate food fans environment? That's for you to figure out! With Americans spending more money on eating out, and our increasing desire for the novel or adventurous, restauranteurs have unlimited opportunities ahead if they continue to push their ideas into 2017 and beyond.
If you want to get in on the $799 billion in restaurant sales in 2017, here are a few things you need to start doing today:
Dial in and connect with your audience
Find your tribe, your cohorts, understand their needs, wants, desires, and values. For example, if you have a vegan restaurant, find some animal welfare charities to connect and help. Share your latest specials, and don't forget to use the #nomeat #vegan hashtags on Instagram and Twitter. Share the secret to your ‘cheese' sauce on your blog. It's all about connecting with your specific audience and giving them the food experiences they can’t find anywhere else.
Cater to a younger demographic
Millennials spend a lot of money on eating out, more than their previous generations:
Millennials spend 44 percent of their food dollars – or $2,921 annually – on eating out, according to the Food Institute's analysis of the United States Department of Agriculture’s food expenditure data from 2014. That represents a 10.7 percent increase from prior data points in 2010. (Source: Forbes.com)
It doesn't look like the millennial spending power is going anywhere, so for 2017 and beyond, it's still about catering to this younger demographic. Why? Thanks to technology and food service apps like GrubHub, Uber Eats, and Seamless, it's never been easier to order food and pay for it with just a couple of clicks. Taking advantage of these new market opportunities might be the difference between giving these millennials what they want, or missing out altogether on this segment of the market.
Take advantage of technology
We've discussed this before, but we will continue to tell owners that if they haven't embraced technology for their businesses, they will be missing out on a large segment of their audience. It is imperative to track your customers coming into your restaurant through wi-fi and email as well as have an online presence that accurately showcases your unique service offerings. If you are online but aren't seeing the surge in traffic that you'd hoped for, give us a call. We can drastically improve your online presence helping you to connect to your core audience.
Looking Ahead at Trends
While we cannot predict all the restaurant industry trends that we’ll see in 2018, we do know that there will be some ongoing trends that will continue, at least according to The National Restaurant Industry Outlook Report, 2017 from restaurant.org:
1. Food and menu trends lean towards concepts – again, we say think about those Instagram-worthy experiences you are offering consumers.
2. New technologies are changing the table service segments of the market. Our advice: Be flexible and embrace new ways to get your food out to consumers. If you are hesitant or don't know what technologies could help propel your business, that's okay. We can help you improve your digital presence and get more traffic in your direction.
3. You MUST embrace social media marketing, online marketing if you want to reach consumers.
These are just three of the upcoming trends you need to think of. If you need help embracing technology, getting online, and reaching out to your core audience—we can help. Schedule a free strategy session call with us today: https://calendly.com/aspirerm/ss