Today's consumers not only expect good food, attentive service, and value for the dollar when they dine out, but also are more likely to choose restaurants that treat employees well and support the community, according to a recent study by the Culinary Visions Panel.
Insight was collected from more than 1,200 consumers about their perspective on ethical choices that impact their decisions when they dine out or purchase food away from home.
Mindful dining has become a way of life for a growing number of health- and environmentally-conscious consumers, who are not only scrutinizing the restaurants they visit, but also the menu items offered. Evidence of this can be seen in the prevalence of organic food, natural products, and locally-sourced ingredients.
Following is detailed insight on the variables that impact consumers' dining decisions, which reflect overall trends in the foodservice industry.
Convenience is King
Diners' expectations for food taste and quality continue to grow. Yet, in today's fast-paced society, the convenience factor has become just as important.
Consequently, consumers say they are most likely to seek out quick-service restaurants more often than casual or quick-casual establishments. These time-starved consumers are looking for fast and affordable options when on the go.
Healthful living has become a lifestyle for a growing number of consumers who are making more of an effort to eat nutritious meals and also minimize their impact on the environment.
This is reflected in the menu items they choose when dining out. Diners are more likely to choose dishes designated as fresh, locally-sourced food, items containing whole grain, and anything deemed to be all natural.
By the same token, a majority of consumers are avoiding GMO foods and those containing high fructose corn syrup, hormones and antibiotics. The appeal of humanely-raised meats and sustainably caught/raised seafood also is evident among today's diners, who tend to order these items when available.
In the current competitive foodservice environment, a growing number of restaurants are taking steps to become a bigger part of their community to better connect with residents.
By sponsoring area events, donating to charities, and supporting local businesses, restaurants and chefs are not only giving back, but also creating a positive profile in their neighborhood. Consumers think more highly of these restaurants and chefs, believing that positive business practices and responsible sourcing of ingredients results in fresher, healthier food that tastes better.
Becoming a fixture in the community also can bring in business, as the majority of diners say friends and family are the main sources they trust regarding a restaurant's reputation. Online reviews and websites also provide consumers with the insight they seek on these establishments.