Trending Now: Getting back to innovation – one step at a time

Hints of light at the end of the COVID tunnel are finally appearing for restaurants across the country. With restrictions being eased, we are seeing guests eager to spend their stimulus payments on what they’ve been missing most – dining out! [fast fact: food tops the list of categories consumers expect to increase spending on this month – groceries and dining out are #1 and #2]

“People want that normal dining experience they’ve been missing,” says Kevin Felice, director of food and operations with Villa Restaurant Group. “They want familiarity, something that is time tested and proven.”

Kevin Felice, Villa Restaurant Group

To start with, experts are telling us to expect guests to focus on their favorites – the tried and true menu items that either haven’t been available or just aren’t the same out of a takeout box. [fast fact: 82% of consumers report eating comfort foods the same or more than last year] In a few months’ time, offering up new or limited-time items will be key to keep guests coming back or capture new ones.

[fast fact: over half of restaurants have either not hired back or only partly hired back staff]

So how to walk that line – innovative enough, but still favorite and familiar? We find pasta to be a smart onramp back to the innovation highway. Pasta is one of the most popular menu items across all regions and demographics; 85% love or like it! It’s food-cost-friendly, and easy on back-of-house teams who are focused on reopening and executing. A little innovation around the edges can keep things fresh and move with the seasons.

Source for all stats: Datassential, 2021