Menu boards are critical to many restaurant and foodservice operations: customers can’t order what they can’t see. And yet, we rarely consider their impact on the bottom line. Does the type of menu board matter — a digital board vs. a chalkboard? Do consumers really want photos? Have calorie counts had an impact?

To understand menu boards, Datassential surveyed over 1,500 consumers and 350 operators for our brand new Menu Board Keynote Report. What are the issues both consumers and operators have with menu boards? Which innovations do consumers find most useful? What can operators do to create a menu board that will bump up the check average?

Some of the results surprised us. One-third of consumers said they ordered the cheapest item on the board because it was the easiest to find. The same percentage said menu boards are generally placed too high up, making them difficult to read. And only 32% of operators say that every item available is represented on the menu board. (read more…)

Wine lovers may pay more attention to variety, vintage and what color goes with which dish, but some are also giving more thought to where and how the grapes were grown. Sustainable agriculture doesn’t have a fixed definition in the way “organic” has had since federal organic standards were finalized in 2000, but a growing number of consumers are seeking sustainably produced wine, and third-party certification programs are infusing the term with more meaning.

The wine industry has been open to collaborating on sustainability issues, perhaps more so than other agricultural sectors that haven’t had to band together as much in the past, said Executive Director Allison Jordan of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, an educational program formed by the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers that launched a statewide sustainability certification program in 2010.

Last year, the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission committed to becoming the country’s first 100% sustainable wine producing county by 2019. (read more…)

New data sources, along with artistic product descriptions and a lack of classification standards, have dumped a mound of valuable but hard to interpret data on our doorstep. Now what?

Sweetgreen, Panera, McDonald's

We at Food Genius see food and think data. No matter if we’re looking at a menu, a receipt or an elaborate product description from a supplier, we see food terminology and think data. For example, let’s look at three Thai/Asian salads: the Rad Thai Salad from SweetGreen, the Thai Chicken Salad from Panera, and the Premium Asian Salad with Crispy Chicken from McDonald’s. Salads are simple, right? Just greens, vegetables, a protein and dressing. Ah, but we all know life just isn’t that easy. The true insight is in the detail.

Between SweetGreen, Panera and McDonald’s, they have more than 30 distinct salads on their core menus. To even begin understanding this from a data standpoint, we need to cluster (or what Food Genius calls “normalize”) them by type. (read more…)

Consumers who think nothing of ordering their books, clothes and shoes online still often balk when it comes to buying their groceries anywhere but the store. The costs and the logistics involved in delivering perishable consumables has kept the food and beverage sector lagging other e-commerce efforts, but flexibility, personalization and omnichannel strategies are helping grocers catch up.

Only about 1% of all U.S. consumers do their grocery shopping online, but online grocery sales are forecast to grow at a 21.1% compound annual growth rate between 2013 and 2018, to nearly $18 billion, while traditional grocery sales are expected to grow only 3.1% annually during the same period, according to Business Insider Intelligence.

In the U.S., grocery e-commerce is working best in high-density urban areas where it’s more cost-effective than in sprawling suburbs or sparsely populated rural areas, said Rahul Bindish, vice president of sales for Grid Dynamics. (read more…)

From big chains like Peet’s and Starbucks to smaller regional players like D.C.’s Dolcezza, coffee makers are helping customers cool off with cold brew iced coffee this summer. Although cold brew coffee isn’t a new concept, it’s a market trend that is getting a lot of attention and gaining in popularity — and it seems to be a trend that could stick.

Cold brew coffee is different from traditional iced coffee in that it is made with cool water, rather than by brewing hot coffee and pouring it over ice to cool it off, and making cold brew coffee is a much more labor-intensive process. In fact, Tech Times reported that it took Starbucks two years to come up with a satisfactory process for making the cold brew coffee that the chain will start serving at all of its locations in North America.

For Brett Holmes, a partner of cold brew coffee maker Strother’s Brewed Cold, the new-found cold brew coffee craze has been a long time coming. (read more…)