We always look forward to what the trend experts at the leading market research firm Mintel have to say about what consumers will be looking for – and how restaurants should respond – in the year ahead.
Mintel’s take focused on 4 major themes: “The Great Divide,” “Play with your Food,” “Restaurants Redefined,” and “Trust or Bust.” Here, we’re spotlight a couple that seemed most applicable to today’s challenges:
“The Great Divide”
This one cuts multiple ways – consumers divided as the “haves” and the “have nots” have been pushed further apart by the economic impacts of the pandemic. It’s also the divide between restaurants better set up to thrive in a pandemic (chains and QSRs) vs. those that aren’t (FSRs and independents). In the end it leads to a search for value on the menu, getting the most – not just quantity, but quality of food and experience – for the least spend.
Barilla’s take: As in recessions past, pasta is an ideal platform for value-engineering a menu. As a versatile, near-universally loved ingredient, you can dress it up with luxury ingredients and special items, or keep it simple and comfort-food focused for hungry families. And since pasta travels well, it can be that bridge to carry your operation through when dining rooms are open again.
“Play with Your Food”
After a year like 2020, it’s no wonder that consumers are seeking fun, relief and indulgence in their food. Foods with nostalgic appeal, comfort foods, and a touch of playfulness have been successful of late, and are all poised to continue that for the next year or more as the economy and pandemic improve. A recent study from Datassential backs this up, showing that consumers are not tiring of comfort foods, even after several months of craving them! Barilla’s take: Pasta dishes in general and Mac and Cheese in particular are quintessential comfort food with universal appeal. Chef Taylor Garrigan’s “Love Pockets” are a perfect example – playing with the nostalgia of mac and cheese with peas, but giving it a local and more sophisticated spin. More on this from our chefs!
Consumers have adapted to the necessary shift to off-premise offerings, but it’s made it harder for operators to deliver the experience that makes dining out worth it, and that builds loyalty to your brand. Creative approaches to add social interaction and enrich the experience are a must! Everything’s on the table, from pop-ups and cross-brand partnerships to upgraded meal kits and catering. LTO’s and “while supplies last” items are another approach that works.
Barilla’s take: Pasta is a great platform for getting creative with delivered menu items. From customizable kits to make at home, to LTOs of special or luxury items like a truffle dish or a regional Italian delicacy, the opportunities to dial up the experience factor abound with pasta. For more on how pasta can solve for this challenge, check out our “Pasta Delivers” video!