What's for dinner? How grocery stores can use foodservice to answer
- Although two-thirds of Americans don’t know what’s for dinner by 4 p.m., retail foodservice — which seems like the perfect fit — does not come to mind, according to the Food Marketing Institute's "The Power of Foodservice at Retail 2018 Part 2" report. Among the third of consumers who typically know what will be on the dinner table, just 15% frequently think of retail foodservice when they are unsure.
- The study also found the less likely shoppers are to have set dinner plans, the less they spend per person in grocery stores. Standard feature days, a weekly meal plan, chef's specials and online planning or shopping tools could help connect consumers to grocer foodservice offerings, FMI says. Retail foodservice price promotions are not very effective in generating sales, the study found, but can drive awareness or meal planning.
- When consumers order from retail foodservice or restaurants, seven in 10 want healthy, nutritious choices. FMI found that while 68% of shoppers believe sufficient information to make educated decisions is available in general, many would appreciate additional tools in the deli and prepared foods grocery department. Most important to them are healthier ingredients (85%), clean label items (83%) and in-store health and nutrition information or education (71%). About half of grocery shoppers notice menu labeling on retail foodservice items, and many will base purchase decisions on calorie and nutrition information.
Gone are the days of devising a weekly menu and filling the grocery cart accordingly for most Americans. Today’s busy families eat fewer than five home-cooked meals a week, and the number is dropping across all demographics, FMI says. Despite that, retail foodservice visits are flat and unit sales are down, the research shows. This seems like a prime example of product and hungry customers passing like ships in the night.
So what can grocers do to get to those who would like to eat a nutritious and freshly prepared meal at home without dirtying a pan? For one, they need to find a way to get the word out to potential customers. FMI indicates that consumers are most likely to learn about retail foodservice selections at the store. However, consumers who eat fewer home-cooked meals are less likely to be in the grocery store in the first place. Grocers might do well to promote their foodservice on social media. And that doesn’t simply mean specials or discounts. Any campaign should include attractive photos of available foods and suggested recipes, side suggestions, or even wine and beverage pairings.
Grocers also must think of themselves as competition for restaurants in order to gain their share of folks who eat food prepared away from home. Services they might want to consider adding could include drive-thrus, meals prepared to order and in-store dining spaces. It could be helpful to add ways to avoid long grocery checkout lanes when buying a hot dinner to-go.
Hy-Vee is an example of what stores can do to bolster foodservice. Their Market Grille spaces serve made-to-order meals prepared from store ingredients. Market Grille's website describes the health benefits and history of the foods it uses in detail. The store lists its restaurant specials, such as kids eat free or half-price beverages. And customers can order online or through a mobile phone app. Hy-Vee has more than 100 Market Grill and Market Grille Express restaurants. For shoppers who might be more apt to pick up a burger for dinner, Hy-Vee has a franchise agreement to open and operate 26 Wahlburgers restaurants in the same markets as its grocery stores.
Kroger is also moving toward blending its traditional grocery offerings with the restaurant concept. The country’s largest grocery chain announced it will open its second Kitchen 1883 restaurant in the fall, following what Kroger called its successful launch of the full-service dining experience in November in northern Kentucky. The menu features “new American comfort” cuisine, local and seasonal dishes and cocktails served in a casual atmosphere. The new location will be a standalone restaurant with a patio in a Cincinnati suburb.
Not every supermarket can hire a chef or create their own restaurant space. Still, as American families move away from cooking but continue to crave fresh-cooked meals, grocers who figure out how to bring retail foodservice items to customer tables should see significant growth.
- Food Marketing Institute The Power of Foodservice at Retail 2018 Part 2