Food in the conversation
As past reports explored, social distancing is changing not only what people eat, but why they eat. And while the greatest emphasis remains an urgency to stock up, there has also been a transformation around meal preparation and planning. Customers are looking to this routine as therapy. It provides some tick of normalcy is an otherwise strange time.
Americans are not necessarily treating themselves or trying new things, though, and one in four have not changed their attitudes at all.
“An interesting thing that has persisted across the past few weeks of this research is just how much people are trying to hang on to their old routines with food, rather than forge new ones because we have to stay home more,” Brandau says. “This time around, we're seeing that in people's choices when they're shopping at the grocery store. There's not a lot of conscious trading up to premium products or trading down to generics; people are buying what's left on the shelves, and price and preference are second to availability.”
- I feel like I need to buy more / stock up on foods (in case I can’t get them later): 34 percent
- I spend more time on meal prep / baking / meal planning now: 26 percent
- Eating / cooking has become a way to relieve boredom: 24 percent
- Eating / cooking has become a way to relieve stress: 22 percent
- I’m willing to spend more on foods I feel are safer (less risk of coronavirus): 19 percent
- Food has become an area where I’m trying to save money / spend less: 17 percent
- I order from restaurants more to help support local businesses: 17 percent
- I eat to treat myself (since I can’t treat myself in other ways right now): 16 percent
- I buy foods I wouldn’t normally buy (because of coronavirus): 15 percent
- I order from restaurants more to treat myself: 10 percent
- I’m spending more on fancier foods because I’m saving money from not going out: 8 percent
A way restaurants can look at this is to attack the “treat myself,” stereotype of the restaurant experience. Meal kits and deals that mirror cooking at home could be a key unlock. Panera Wednesday launched a grocery service that allows guests to tack on essentials, like milk and fruit, to orders.
Helping guests understand they can feed themselves, not just treat themselves, through restaurants is a smart stance to take. Firebirds is offering cut steaks and seasoned beef for customers to take home and grill themselves.
It's calling this, "The Butcher Shoppe," with messaging, "Our beef is all natural, growth-hormone free, Midwestern, corn and grain fed, aged 21 days for incredible taste and tenderness. USDA Inspected closely trimmed and cut fresh daily for cooking at home."
Setup as follows:
- Ribeye (14 ounce): $14.95/ea.
- Filet Mignon (7 ounce): $12.95/ea.
- Center Cut Sirloin (7 ounce): $5.95/ea.; (12oz): $8.95/ea.
- Burger (1/2 pound, includes brioche bun(s): $3.95/ea.
And all steaks come with Firebirds' special blend steak seasoning.
A lot of restaurants have tried things like this, such as Texas-based Whiskey Cake and its DIY cocktail kits.
If consumers are looking to food and food preparation as a way to pass quarantine hours and relieve stress, cater to that audience. A night of takeout doesn’t always need to be seen as an indulgence. If consumers understand they can supplement bi-weekly trips to the grocery store with restaurant service, they will tap into familiar and affordable options.
Olive Garden is offering a to-go centric version of its popular Buy One Take One deal by giving customers a meal for that night with another for tomorrow. Why not speak to the stock-up crazed masses by giving them what they desire—options they can store and stretch out across multiple days, and do so without breaking the bank?
As Datassential puts it, “Consumers are on a mission to find their ‘usuals,’ regardless of brand or price. Restaurants can be consumers’ refuge amid all the disruption by staying on their radar with frequent reminders that they are still open and are still offering what people seek.”