We have also been seeing a lot of momentum behind “health without sacrifice” menu options – things that are healthier, yes, but still taste amazing (and often feature premium ingredients). Extreme Pita’s Spring Fever Pita, one of the big winners in the 2014 BNMIs, is a really strong example of this with ingredients including fresh berries, spring mix, goat cheese, balsamic dressing and grilled chicken. Healthy menu options are where the most innovative thinking is required – and when you get the taste right there can be a great pay-off.
Fish and seafood options resonate extremely well – with a narrow band of consumers. One of the BNMI categories that garnered the highest number of votes overall was comprised of fish (or lobster) burgers and subs. Those who eat this type of menu item seemed to really like them for similar reasons to what was referenced above – they not only taste great, but many are perceived to have premium ingredients, and be a bit healthier than other options. That said, within QSR it’s still a relatively small group of consumers that choose fish burgers (vs. beef burgers). It will be interesting to see if that changes over time.
The comparison factor
Make sure you have all the relevant comparison points. In addition to testing new menu items from different restaurants against each other, the BrandSpark program focuses on how consumers believe a particular menu item compares to other items from that restaurant, and also how it compares to similar menu items at competitive restaurants. This is important context because in some cases a new menu item can (for example) be rated highly in the category, but actually be seen as worse than other things your restaurant offers – meaning customers are walking away less happy than normal.
Remember that “early adopters” have different tastes than everyone else. Some people love trying new menu items at restaurants; some people don’t. And it’s important to remember the tastes of these groups are often quite different – with the former group being (predictably) a bit more daring. For example, when you focus on the consumers that love trying new menu items, they had a lot of interest in trying “ethnic” flavour profiles like Thai and Indian at quick service restaurants, while the broader set of consumers leans towards more traditional flavour profiles like Italian. This makes culinary adventure seekers particularly interesting to study for short-term menu promotions, but a little less interesting for longer-term or permanent menu items.
This is just a sampling of what we’ve been seeing in 2014 – to learn more about the awards and study, visit www.bestrestaurantawards.com.
About the author
Denis Hancock is Director of Consumer Insights at BrandSpark International, a leading brand, marketing, and product innovation research company with over 10 years experience in the restaurant industry.