Archive for May, 2010

Food Trucks: An Old School Concept becomes a Hot Trend

May 21, 2010

A recent article on American Express’ website, Restaurant Briefing, indicates the most recent hot trend in the food industry is food carts and trucks. The trucks offer a wide variety of cuisines and sell their food on the streets of cities.  In Los Angeles, consumers drive miles to get to certain trucks and then stand in line for service.

Now some full service restaurants are joining the trend. They are purchasing or leasing trucks equipped with full kitchens.  Trucks tend to follow set routes and/or park at street fairs, colleges, athletic events, cultural attractions, or office complexes. The trucks are covered in design with the restaurant’s logo and graphics, which serve as a mobile billboard and advertisement.

Social Networking Builds Interest

Social networking plays a big part in this trend as food trucks “tweet” or announce their location, and vice versa, consumers blast out the info via email, Facebook and Twitter to their friends and social networks.

Mary Sue Milliken, co-owner of Border Grill, Santa Monica, CA, says they take their food truck selling tacos to spots where there is already a crowd, and where good food is not easily available. This can include sporting events, art shows, marathons, and various charity events.

Trucks are Mobile Marketing

Many restaurants have trucks selling food as a way to promote and build interest in their main restaurant. The trucks are also ideal for catering and corporate events. With the recession and many companies cutting back on offsite meetings, the truck comes to the location and prepares food for various types of meetings.  Trucks can even do things such as clambakes or luaus where everyone gets involved.

Those interested in getting into this new trend will have to consider costs. Trucks can be leased or purchased.  Some find used trucks to outfit with a kitchen. Many food service trucks have eco-friendly policies. All say learning the nuances of health and transportation departments’ rules and regulations can be a challenge.

Are Burgers Today’s Hottest Menu Item?

May 20, 2010

A recent industry report from Technomic, Inc. says burgers are the hottest of all food menu trends. The report also says their popularity is not only limited to quick-serve restaurants but is also true of full service restaurants.

Executive Vice President of Technomic Darren Tristano said, “Burgers may be the one area of foodservice that American consumers are less willing to cut back, despite the current economic environment.”

This information is thought to be an important opportunity for restaurants, especially since a large percentage (about a third) of consumers says they are willing to pay more for a premium or specialty burger. According to Darren, “The value proposition is heightened.”

What makes a Burger Premium?

About three quarters of respondents in the report said they consider the quality or type of meat such as Angus or Wagyul; about the same number of consumer’s report that it’s a high quality cut of meat like sirloin that really matters to them.  The report also notes both sirloin and Angus beef have risen in popularity in the last two years.

From fast food to full service, the report shows that beef content in a burger is more important than any other factor.  With all restaurants in all segments, consumers responded that good quality/taste of meat as the first and second most appealing burger element.

What’s on Top Counts

When all restaurant segments are included, quality/taste of toppings rises to 41% of consumers who ranked this element first and second. With full service restaurant operators wanting to tap into the potential of burgers, various sizes of burgers, as indicated by half of respondents/consumers, could be a good area to target.  The report notes that restaurants might consider offering mini burgers to half-pound burgers as menu choices.

Notes: Results are from 2,529 respondents, of whom 1,194 eat burgers at least once per week; 832 once every two-three weeks; and 503 once a month or less. Participants could choose up to three responses. Source: 2009 Burger Consumer Trend Report, Technomic, Inc.; copyright Technomic, Inc. 2009

Is Foursquare and Geo Targeted Search a Perfect Match for Food Service?

May 19, 2010

Foursquare is one of the hottest mobile applications on the market today. Its growth in one year has been phenomenal.  Foursquare offers its users endless ways to connect and network. It is a location-based social networking application.

The program lets consumers notify their friends where they are and vice versa.  Foursquare allows members to collect points, prize badges, and eventually coupons for reporting in with their typical daily business.

How Foursquare Works

Foursquare has amassed one million members in less than a year. The mobile program can be used via iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or Palm Pre.

When members check in from wherever they are, Foursquare notifies their network of friends in the neighborhood, and recommends nearby activities. Users make it a fun game as they try to compete with friends and associates in exploring new restaurants, attractions, and events.

New Business via Friendly Competition

The friendly competition entices many members to visit businesses and establishments offering specials through the program. It’s all in good fun and helps deepen the relationship between consumers and businesses.

The businesses add to the fun by making offers of free drinks, discounts, and free food.  Foursquare also offers users the option of becoming “mayor”. When a user signs in from a business, the mobile application will automatically notify them concerning how to claim the “deal” from the business. Some offer a reward to every member who checks in. Foursquare provides deals in house and via social network channels.

Recently, the network surpassed 1,000,000 registered users and had its biggest day ever on March 11, with more than 275,000 “check-ins”.

Foursquare Gets Respect

The website is being taken very seriously by businesses. Starbucks announced its plans to sign a deal giving users an opportunity to earn a Barista badge for checking in at five different locations.  Expect many businesses to follow suit.


New Trends in Social Media Restaurant Marketing

May 18, 2010

Social media is a constant and growing buzzword in marketing, advertising and public relations today.  Restaurant marketing through these new channels is no different.

According to a recent report released by Restaurants and Institutions, several new delivery channels are becoming popular with consumers. These new channels provide new opportunities to take marketing to the next level while providing consumers with discounts and coupons.

Social Media Offers

The report indicates offers made by restaurants via social media channels work well. As an example, 63% of respondents to the survey said coupons and discounts are what they want when connecting to a restaurant’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Restaurants Getting Creative

Restaurants are finding creative, interesting ways to connect and market to consumers via social media channels. For instance, blast announcements of last minute happy hour and various restaurant discounts are popular ways to attract more business. These tactics are not only driving traffic to the establishments, but social media strategies develop their communities and followers via viral messaging.

Groupon, the New HOT Trend

Groupon, a relatively new coupon delivery system, has taken off with over 4 million subscribers. Groupon is a growing powerhouse in the electronic coupon niche.  Subscribers receive a daily email with a special offer in their city for restaurants, events, or activities.

These discounts include restaurant meals, such as half off the standard price of a meal by using a “Groupon” (or coupon). The offer becomes the main subject of a daily email which typically includes photos, information about the business, and links to its website. There is no upfront cost for businesses to participate.

New audiences tapped

Groupon does the processing of the transactions and retains a portion of each “Groupon” sold. The daily deal and email quickly become viral and are forwarded via email and announced via Twitter, Facebook and several other popular social media channels.

Restaurants report the program is a viable marketing vehicle and is helping them reach new audiences and communities.  Typically the growth is with younger, web savvy consumers. This is a low cost way for restaurants to do strong marketing through social media channels.

New Reports Offer Conflicting Data on Restaurant Discounting

May 17, 2010

Two separate restaurant reports that were recently released contradict each other on future consumer trends in restaurant dining. The reports offer opposing data on whether consumers use price and deals as a top reason to dine out. The reports also question whether price, deals or coupons will continue to be a deciding factor in consumer’s restaurant choices.

Are Consumers Less Interested in Price?

The first report, just released by the NPD Group, indicates restaurants are seeing a trend that consumers are becoming less interested in price or deals as an enticement to dine out. The report reveals that 22% of respondents to the survey said they were looking for a good deal at restaurants. This is down from 29% a year ago.

Restaurants Get Choosy on Promotions

It appears many restaurants have started to back away from deep discounts and are starting to be more discerning about price promotions. However, the report also indicates that no one knows how long it will take consumers to back away from price promotions – it may be a slow process.

Opposing Reports on Consumer Restaurant Trends

Far different information is found in another study titled The 2010 New American Diner Study at Restaurants and Institutions.  Their report indicates consumers continue to observe price before everything else as the key decision when making dining choices.

In fact, the report says nearly 60% of respondents agree that, “In choosing a restaurant, price is usually my first consideration.”  Diners across the all categories said lower price is the number one incentive for eating out in a restaurant on a regular basis. This applies to all three daily meals at restaurants.

New Social Media Delivery Channels

Restaurants are looking at different ways to market to price-conscious consumers such as new social media delivery channels.  The Restaurant and Institutions study says respondents commonly checked Facebook and Twitter for coupons and deals.

Discounts are the number one reason consumers say they connect to the restaurant’s Facebook or Twitter page. Restaurants are becoming more social media savvy and learning to offer contests or asking consumers to mention a specific “tweet” to get a special deal at the restaurant.