'Social responsibility' important factor for restaurant consumers
Consumers want to be more informed of the food they are eating and the way in which an operator or supplier is growing or preparing their food, according to new research from Technomic. Suppliers, therefore, have an opportunity to provide fresh/natural foods and help operators tell the story.
According to a news release, more than half of consumers (59 percent) rated "socially responsible" as an important factor when deciding what restaurant they will visit, followed by restaurants that serve meat and poultry raised without hormones or steroids (58 percent), those that feature free-range poultry and/or grass-fed beef (45 percent) and those that serve natural and organic menu items (41 percent).
"Operators have a tremendous opportunity to gain share of stomach by taking credit for the socially responsible food they menu," Darren Tristano, Technomic EVP, said in the release. "Although many brands are socially responsible, they're not communicating where these products are used or how they're sourced. Providing more information on where food was grown can help create the sense of healthy and sustainable."
The latest data from Technomic's MenuMonitor showcases where opportunities exist:
- More than 9 percent of restaurants use "natural" when describing a menu item.
- "Natural" menu incidence posted yearly growth of 7 percent, with a 20 percent increase on kids' menus.
- For example, A&W Restaurants uses 100 percent all-natural Wisconsin white cheddar for their cheese curds, and a number of items featuring "all-natural chicken" are available at Corner Bakery.
- The number of restaurants offering "sustainable" menu items has grown more than 34 percent since 2011; sustainable menu items are up more than 74 percent in that same period.
- For example, McDonald's made a commitment to begin buying verified sustainable beef globally by 2016, and its fish products have been certified sustainable since 2005. Bruegger's Bagels French Roast coffee is "Sourced From Rainforest Alliance Certified Farms And Is Sustainably Grown To Benefit Farm Families, Wildfire, And The Environment."
- Use of "organic" in menu descriptions, has grown 4 percent since 2011, with a 42 percent jump on kids' menus in that same period.
- Currently, nearly 18 percent of the top 500 U.S. restaurant chains offer an organic menu item.
- For example, diners can select from a number of organic ingredients at Jason's Deli, including organic wheat wraps, organic field greens and organic blue corn chips, and Chipotle offers branded organic tofu in a number of new vegetarian entrées.