Trends in retail foodservice

During the past few years, shopper behavior has changed dramatically, and for two distinct, yet related, reasons.

Through necessity, Americans are preparing far more meals at home than they had before. However, many demographics, particularly families juggling at-home work and virtual schooling, struggle to add three square meals into the mix.

Other demographics, such as Gen Z consumers and younger Millennials, are reaching for more convenient foods and snacks as they contend with short (or non-existent) meal breaks during school or work.

Here are some of the latest key stats about consumer behavior in retail foodservice

Supporting the at-home chef

Consumers are returning to in-person dining in greater numbers, but the trend will continue for more at-home meals. Many stores have developed their own private-label meal kits or partnered with established brands. Here are tips to make it work:

  • Offer pre-packaged entrees, sides, salads and desserts for easy pick-up or pre-order for consumers that want to assemble their own meals without the hassle of prep. Stock pre-cooked vegetables, portioned proteins, seasonings and sauces. Accomplish it all using cook-chill tools, such as tumblers, compact blast chillers and sous vide equipment.
  • Design a menu that can stand up to wait times and reheating, such as a breakfast strata, gooey pasta bake or decadent lava cake. This is where combi-ovens or ovens with pulse-heat technology are ideal.
  • Add large-format temperature-controlled display cases to show off meal solutions. This is a trend that is not abating, so strategic investments in upscale, merchandisable cases is smart. In the meantime, consider converting an unused self-service hot/cold bar to stock with pre-packaged goods.
  • Many retailers also are facilitating ready-to-go dining by offering their own delivery or pick-up service. Add temperature-controlled holding cases or even more tech-forward food lockers in a convenient location for drivers or consumers.

Support all-day snack attacks

Today’s younger snackers aren’t satisfied with junk-food options; they want an array of better-for-you selections with tastes from around the world.

  • Gen Z and Millennials are frequent purchasers of snacks with organic and natural ingredients, from grass-fed beef to cage-free eggs. Many of these ingredients require more refrigerator space and specialty storage solutions that wick moisture and prevent spoilage.
  • More compact cold-cases should be placed around the location’s footprint, increasing opportunities for impulse purchases, such as smaller fruit/vegetable cups with dips, Greek yogurt or kombucha. Don’t forget condiment and napkin dispensers, too.
  • Facilitate fresh-but-fast snacking by adding ventless equipment in smaller areas or non-traditional spaces. Ventless ovens can still roast, sauté and fry so diners on-the-go can pick up quick and high-quality items like tacos, buffalo cauliflower or sweet-potato fries.

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