According to GuestMetrics, while traffic trends to restaurants continue to be sluggish thus far in 2013, the food menu item that has suffered the most has been desserts, due to a combination of macroeconomic and health and wellness factors.
“As we have written about extensively, the traffic trends to restaurants and bars continue to be under pressure with the number of visitors down about 2 percent during the most recent quarter compared to prior year levels. Based on the POS data we gather each month, looking specifically at food, which accounts for about 70 percent of total sales in the sector, the various categories of food have been performing very differently. During the most recent quarter, appetizers and sides were the only food category that grew from prior year levels, up about 1 percent. The number of soups sold was down 1 percent, entrees were down 2 percent, salads were down 3 percent, and desserts fell a fairly sharp 5.5 percent from levels seen last year,” says Bill Pecoriello, CEO of GuestMetrics LLC. “Based on data from our sister company, Consumer Edge Research, we believe there are several macroeconomic and health & wellness factors that can explain the decline of desserts.”
“Based on the extensive survey data from our sister company CER, despite the recession having officially ended several years ago, the broad consumer base remains under significant economic pressure. Consumer confidence levels are better, but still about 30 percent below levels seen during boom years. According to CER, approximately 80 percent of consumers say they are being extremely careful to manage their budgets. Additionally, 48 percent of consumers say they are trying to stay home more in order to reduce the amount of money they spend, which is obviously a negative for restaurants. And in terms of health and wellness trends, about 55 percent of consumers say they would like to lose ten pounds,” says Peter Reidhead, vice president of Strategy and Insights at GuestMetrics. “We believe the combination of continued economic pressure and the desire to lose weight are the underlying drivers behind dessert trends experiencing a particularly sharp decline.”
“Looking at appetizers and sides in more detail, some of the hottest selling items are boneless chicken wings, quesadillas, spinach dips, and hummus. In terms of desserts, while the trends have been in decline, this doesn’t mean that all desserts are doing poorly. Looking at the fastest growing desserts, 4 of the top 10 desserts are related to brownies, so there are some examples of strength within dessert. The dessert item that has been contracting the most has been cheesecake,” says Brian Barrett, president of GuestMetrics. “During these times of continued sluggishness in the sector, we have been actively advising our restaurant clients on which items to carry on their menus and which to avoid, in order to maximize their revenue potential.”