ZenMango, a restaurant marketing firm, released 11 trends in 2011 that are influencing the way customers perceive and use the restaurant landscape. The trends include:
1. Consumers are still eating out less: Fourty-four percent of restaurant consumers stated that they are eating out less often. Women, those over 40, and those earning under $35K per year are the most prominent groups eating out less in 2011.
2. Grocery stores still compete with restaurants: Consumers are purchasing more prepared food from grocery stores versus restaurants than in the past (36 percent).
3. Consumers are still in the driver’s seat: Ninety percent of consumers feel that they are in the driver’s seat with the plentiful supply of restaurants competing for their business.
4. Deals are readily available: Eighty percent of consumers feel that the deal rate has remained the same or gone up. In fact, half of them feel that the number of deals offered has increased.
5. Pricing specials/deals are important: As more pricing specials/deals have become available, it has become a more important driver for choosing restaurants among 47 percent of consumers.
6. Amount of food for the money has gone down: Thirty-three percent of consumers feel that they are getting a reduced amount of food for the money.
7. Consumers waiting longer in restaurants: Twenty-one percent of consumers feel that restaurant wait times have increased. Is this driven by restaurants reducing labor to cut costs? Are consumers seeing through the labor cutbacks?
8. Importance of quality of food on the rise: Quality of food is a more important factor in choosing a restaurant for 38 percent of consumers.
9. Atmosphere becoming more important: Atmosphere of restaurants has increased as an important factor in choosing a restaurant for 25 percent of consumers. This could be a direct result of fast casual restaurants increasing their presence in the restaurant industry.
10. “Green” is becoming a choice driver: Fourteen percent of consumers are choosing a restaurant based on how green they are. This is an emerging trend of which restaurants must be aware.
11. Low calorie meals are here to stay: Consumers perceive that over half (54 percent) of restaurants are offering lower calorie meals and that 48 percent of restaurants show the calorie content of meals.