CHICAGO -- With the new year come and gone and restaurant chains still trying to revive lagging sales, many businesses are asking the same question: What will consumers do in 2017? In response, Technomic has released its list of the top five consumer trends to watch over the coming year. From economic uncertainty to a push for automation, here are the five consumer trends set to affect restaurant and retail foodservice in 2017.
1. Patronage polarization
Consumers are facing increasing income inequality, and this instability has hurt many consumers’ economic outlook. Only 38% of consumers expect the economy to improve in 2017, according to Technomic. Lower- and middle-class consumers will curb spending until instability subsides, but expect few cutbacks among affluent consumers. Operators will fine tune the balance of affordability and quality and cater to the affluent with more upscale food and dining.
2. Creating community
Foodservice will create connection among guests. About half of consumers (49%) say it’s important that restaurants support their community, Technomic data shows. Operators will strive to connect people and communities as places to gather, give back, recuperate, and foster diversity and inclusivity. Involvement in the local community will also bolster brand trust, which has strong implications for brand performance.
3. Classics revival
Today’s diners seek modern, unique twists on classic fare. Consumers crave new foods and experiences but are comforted by familiar options. More than a quarter of consumers (27%) say they are ordering more foods with traditional, familiar flavors now than they were a year ago, according to Technomic. Innovation will be inspired by the past; operators will highlight sourcing, especially farm-to-table, and use authentic ingredients in new ways. Nostalgic dishes such as meatloaf and pot roast are even making a comeback at restaurants.
4. Food beyond fuel
Healthy intentions are driving heathier orders. More than two-fifths of consumers eat healthfully to feel better and improve their quality of life. And more than half of diners (53%) agree that fad diets are not a good way to lose weight. Operators will increasingly tout a balanced, healthy diet as the “best medicine” for an overall healthy lifestyle.
5. Automated takeout
Operators will adopt new technology to drive off-premise sales, considering half of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 (49%) order food to go more often now than they did in 2013, Technomic data shows. More operators will test delivery drones and robots, chatbots and enhanced online ordering. After completing a fully autonomous drone delivery to a customer’s residence last summer, 7-Eleven plans to eventually make all of its convenience-store merchandise available via an unmanned aerial vehicle.