Nine grocery trends that will impact restaurant visits

Nine grocery trends that will impact restaurant visits
By Denis Hancock
September 30, 2014


When devising strategy, it’s important to look outside the restaurant industry for other information (and key data points) that can be used – particularly consumer confidence, general food consumption trends, and technology usage – all of which directly impact restaurant visits. In that vein, here are just of few of the interesting insights that came out of BrandSpark’s annual Canadian Grocery Shopper Study (based upon the responses of 100,000 Canadian consumers).

Shopper confidence is on the upswing

More than one in four Canadians (28 per cent) feel their families will be better off six months from now than they are today, versus only 11 per cent that believe they will be worse off. This is the highest degree of consumer confidence we’ve seen in the last five years.

Consumers are cooking more at home – and picking up home meal replacements quite often

Increased optimism couldn’t have come at a better time, as fully 27 per cent of shoppers indicated they were cooking more often at home versus nine per cent that said they were cooking less often. At the same time, about 1/3 of shoppers reported picking up ready-to-eat meals from the grocery store for dinner at least once a week – just slightly behind the percentage of people that pick up take out from restaurants at the same frequency. As the HMR (home meal replacement) aisles in grocery stores continue to expand, many restaurants need to be thinking hard about how they can attract this type of occasion.


Italian is the favourite type of ethnic cuisine for Canadians – but not necessarily when they go out

When asked for their favourite type of ethnic cuisine, Canadians clearly selected Italian as number one (chosen by 47 per cent of consumers), with Chinese a distant second at 28 per cent . However, much of this preference is driven by Canadians who enjoy cooking Italian food at home. When you ask what type of cultural cuisine Canadians enjoy eating at restaurants, Chinese flies to the top of the list, being selected almost twice as often as Italian. Moreover, each of Japanese, Thai, and Greek food are chosen for restaurant preferences more often than Italian, while options like Vietnamese, Indian and Mexican not far behind.

Nethris/CGI Jan - 2016

Look deeper into food sensitivities and preferences

As noted in Restaurants Canada’s Chef Survey, gluten-free menu options are the hottest trend in Canadian restaurants. At the same time, only about six per cent of consumers in our Shopper Study indicated they were following a gluten-free diet. While there are certainly more than that who seek out gluten-free options occasionally, keep dietary restrictions in perspective while being aware of all diners’ concerns – two-thirds of consumers say they have no dietary restrictions at all.

The “organic” market is rather stagnant

The percentage of people who regularly order organic food products has consistently hovered just under 25 per cent the last few years, and much of this is driven by fruits and vegetables. So it looks like organic’s not growing, but neither is it going away – even as consumers indicate a lot of confusion about what organic is, and a belief that many companies exaggerate organic claims. As above, depending on the type of restaurant, organics might be worth still having or pursuing, but it is not for everyone. As I’ve discussed previously, “local” was (and still is) a much bigger opportunity to connect with a much broader base of consumers.

Only certain types of healthy options taste good to Canadians

Canadians are generally trying to eat healthier. But it’s not enough to offer simply offer a few healthy options at the bottom of the menu – those healthy options also have to taste good. When asked how “healthier” versions of different food and beverages compared to the “traditional” versions, consumers indicated that some healthier options (like whole grain pasta, low sodium bacon, and baked chips) actually tasted better than the originals, while others (like some gluten-free pasta, extra lean meat, and low-fat ice cream) tasted much worse. Restaurants looking to evolve their healthy menu options should be seeking out ways to do so that minimize taste trade-offs – or even better, create a better tasting meal. 

Coupons from websites and email are just as popular as those received in the mail

Among shoppers who used coupons on a regular basis, there were just as many people using ones found online or via email as those using coupons received in the mail. Given the cost difference in distributing the two, it’s just another reminder of how a strong online strategy help make marketing spend that much more efficient. This is particularly true for email, which often doesn’t get as much attention as social media in the press (and marketing conferences) – but is still the most common online activity, and the preferred means of receiving offers for a large percentage of consumers. However, recent anti-spam legislation should also be taken into consideration before embarking on an email marketing campaign.

Facebook “likes” are driven by discounts and contests

About one-half of Facebook users are a fan or part of a group for a consumer brand, and about one-quarter of Facebook users “like” six brands or more. Restaurants are among the most popular type of brands to connect with, lagging only behind food and beverage and cosmetics brands. This is all good news. But while many brands like to think about Facebook as a loyalty building tool, it’s important to note that almost 80 per cent of consumers say they usually like brands in order to receive special discounts or contest entries. This by no means is meant to downplay the importance of a strong presence and strategy – just remember a lot of them are only there for a deal.

Ensure your restaurant has strong smartphone strategy

Over one-half of Canadian shoppers currently own a smartphone, and 15 per cent of those who don’t plan to get one in the next year. Nearly four in 10 smartphone users admit to using it “all the time,” and a lot of them are using it for everything from finding restaurants to looking up health and nutrition information. Most of them are aware of scannable QR codes, and 40 per cent indicate they’ve used them to access information before – most often from magazines. There are lots of powerful ways to connect with everyone from new users to loyal guests through these devices. Make sure you take advantage because they’re only going to become more pervasive.

See also:

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.

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