Every year, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) studies the principal drivers behind food and beverage consumption. Thousands of consumers are surveyed during a calendar year to create the annual NRA Restaurant Industry Pocket Factbook, which reveals the essentials of market research: who, why, when, and where. Here’s what they say is happening in 2017.
The General Consensus on Restaurants and Bars in 2017
Give yourselves a round of applause: 9 in 10 consumers say they enjoy going to restaurants. So much so that 2 in 5 consumers say restaurants are an essential part of their lifestyle. That’s a considerable number of Americans who can’t imagine life without a restaurant as the regular backdrop.
Restaurants are the ideal location for any number of situations, from personal celebrations to professional sit-downs. Their convenience makes restaurants the natural choice for business meetings. Social hosts are turning away from their kitchens and toward restaurants for the same reason: 8 in 10 consumers say that dining out with family and friends is a better use of their leisure time than cooking and cleaning up.
As clean-up duties are reduced to none, expectations rise to new heights. Years ago, guests were delighted by home-cooked meals, but in 2017, they want something different, with 7 in 10 consumers saying their favorite restaurant foods provide flavors they can’t easily duplicate at home. That’s a clear reminder to check and recheck your food quality on a regular basis (see our article on bad habits to quit, particularly the habit of thinking your food is good). When a customer thinks, “Yawn… I could have just made this at home,” you’ve probably just lost a repeat diner.
It’s safe to say that in 2017, dining out is a fundamental social and professional activity.
The Specifics: How Restaurant Consumers Make Decisions in 2017
Now that you know how highly ranked restaurants are in social importance, it’s time to learn how to be more competitive than the rest. In 2017, diners expect restaurant food to be above average—if not, your chances of survival are slim. Based on the NRA’s survey results, there are three main points consumers consider when deciding where to dine out:
1. The menu
2. How or where food is sourced
3. The type of technology a restaurant offers
The Menu Matters
Today’s consumers are health conscious and pickier than ever (as the gluten-free and ancient-grain trends show us); 40% of consumers say diet-specific food options would make them choose one restaurant over another. You might be tempted to follow the path of this San Francisco restaurant (“We’re closed because of you customers. Yes, we use MSG! We don't believe in organic food”), but appeasing the dietary needs of the nutrition-conscious diner would be in your (profitable) favor.56% of consumers saying their primary reason for preferring locally sourced food is that it supports farms and producers in their communities.
Reducing environmental impact is also important to 2017 consumers: 60% say that the availability of environmentally friendly food would make them choose one restaurant over another.
New Technology Matters
It's no surprise to see restaurant technology playing a definitive role in 2017. 30% of consumers say that technology makes them dine out or order takeout or delivery more often. From placing orders online to paying the bill, smartphones are creating a new meaning to “dine and dash.” 42% of consumers say the ability to order online would make them choose one restaurant over another.
Technology is speeding up the time guests spend dining in, and it affects how time is spent at a restaurant: 80% of millennials have used free Wi-Fi in a restaurant in the last year. Now more than ever, it’s important to offer diners technology and networking that meet their needs.
The National Restaurant Association Show 2017 is coming up, and Lavu will be there! Be sure to visit Booth #6657 if you’ll be at the show, in Chicago from May 20 to 23. We will be demonstrating features and making some exciting product announcements.