According to Technomic's Future of FSR: Family & Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report, family and traditional casual-dining restaurant visits are threatened by the growing fast-casual sector, which now rates competitively when it comes to food quality but is perceived to offer better value and greater convenience.
At the same time, higher-income consumers are being drawn to upscale casual dining chains by the promise of a unique experience.
To maintain and regain share, struggling full-service chains will need to revitalize their image. From refreshing unit decor to updating menu offerings, family-style restaurants will need to focus on value and quality, while traditional and contemporary casual dining operations should focus on quality, innovation, and regionally sourced and inspired menu items.
"Revamped menus include the integration of healthy and seasonal fare and more customization opportunities," says Sara Monnette, senior director of consumer insights and innovation at Technomic. "Chains will replace 10 menu items with one base item that is customizable in 10 different ways.”
“Along with the menu, creating a contemporary ambiance will be vital to growth. The consumers' perception of the overall dining experience are strongly influenced by decor and atmosphere,” Monnette says.
To help foodservice executives understand the latest consumer behaviors, preferences and attitudes regarding full-service restaurants, Technomic has published an update of its Future of FSR: Family & Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report. Other findings focus on health-halo terms, atmosphere, and adult-beverage programs.
Health-halo and special-diet terms, such as gluten-free and natural, are trending upward on family-style and casual-dining menus, while traditional health claims like low carb and low fat are quickly declining.
Consumers largely expect a quiet, relaxing atmosphere at full-service restaurants, yet operators can appeal to younger consumers by providing a lively, upbeat ambiance.