Today’s consumers expect fine-dining menus to boast locally sourced ingredients and change with the seasons, and now the locavore trend is fueling changes at less-pricey fast-casual chains such as Mad Greens, Salata, Sweetgreen, and Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless.

Fast casual continues to grow, even as overall restaurant traffic has remained flat for more than five years, according to recent NPD Group data. A key trend driving that growth is the rising demand for fresh ingredients, and the willingness to pay a premium for them. And, if the food is locally sourced and comes with a backstory, so much the better.

Colorado-based Mad Greens has increased the amount of locally sourced items on the menu in recent years, and there’s a strategy for expanding that when the 13-unit chain expands beyond the Centennial State’s borders, said founders Marley Hodgson and Dan Long. “The plan is to have a dedicated portion of the menu that’s local specific,” Hodgson said. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Kellogg’s. Find out how more about this revolutionary study, and how its detailed findings can benefit your business.

Morning is when millions of people eat away from home. But today, how A.M. consumers make their morning food choices and purchases is dramatically different than how they’ve previously decided what to eat. Now there are a myriad of variables that affect how people choose their first meal. These include:

  • An unlimited variety of foods available in the morning, at quick-serve restaurants, convenience stores, coffee shops and more.
  • More finely segmented demographic groups including employed vs. retired, urban vs. suburban, stay-at-homes vs. business travelers.
  • Changing attitudes about the definition of morning “meals.” A relaxing sit-down breakfast could be considered a meal to one, while a protein bar and cup of coffee is an equally satisfying option for someone else.

Because eating behaviors have such a large effect on the foodservice industry, Kellogg’s examined what motivates those who eat away from home in the morning. (read more…)

 

Sodium reduction is a hot topic in the foodservice industry as manufacturers and restaurateurs look for ways to cut sodium without sacrificing flavor or shelf-life. SmartBrief spoke with Anita Jones-Mueller, president and chief executive officer of Healthy Dining about the company’s latest research on sodium reduction and how restaurants can make menus healthier while keeping customers satisfied.

Healthy Dining recently released research on sodium reduction in restaurants. What did you find?

We found some very interesting results! Healthy Dining received funding from the National Institutes of Health through the National Cancer Institute to launch the first ever wide scale study looking at the sensory effects — and customer satisfaction — of simply reducing amounts of high sodium ingredients.

Healthy Dining’s registered dietitians and research team worked with four well-known restaurant chains. We reduced the amounts of high-sodium ingredients, such as salt and seasonings, sauces, spreads and cheese, in several popular menu items and tested the flavor profiles of the menu items with more than 1,200 frequent restaurant customers. (read more…)

Summertime brings a new surge of food-truck activity each year, from events like Truckeroo in the Washington, D.C., market and Food Truck Fridays in Charlotte, N.C., to cross-country tours by chains like TGI Fridays, which launched a food truck stocked with free samples in the hope of reintroducing young consumers to the casual chain.

Lee Campbell has been making customized trucks and RVs for 25 years, and he added mobile kitchens into the mix about 10 years ago, when the demand began to grow. His company, Manassas, Va.- based S&L Customs Food Trucks & Trailers, outfits and retrofits trucks, transforming them into mobile kitchens.

In recent years, he has seen a rise in food trucks doing ethnic cuisines, seasonal seafood concepts and higher-end fare. Made-to-order gourmet meals can be tough to pull off in a food truck, he said, because customers expect the whole transaction to take three or four minutes, but chefs are striving to create new fast flavors. (read more…)

Every day two-thirds of consumers eat breakfast, most of it at home. But in the past few years restaurants have been working hard to lure customers away from their kitchens by expanding into the breakfast day part and adding innovative breakfast items. Taco Bell’s breakfast menu, which the company rolled out nationwide earlier this year, was the chain’s largest menu expansion in the brand’s history, with Taco Bell President Brian Niccol noting that, “Breakfast is the fastest growing day part in QSR.”

In order to understand the breakfast landscape, from consumer habits and preferences to opportunities for operators, manufacturers, and distributors, Datassential focused on breakfast for the launch of our brand new MenuTrends Keynote report series. For the first time Datassential is leveraging the power of MenuTrends, our trend-tracking database, and combining it with extensive consumer and operator survey data, from motivations to behaviors to opportunities, in order to bring together trends, data, and insights in a series of comprehensive reports that dive deep into key industry topics and categories. (read more…)