February 6 2020

Trend Watch: How the ‘sober curious’ trend helped out the soda industry; and why the best digital marketing strategy starts with a coupon

BY Restaurant Hospitality

In this month’s Trend Watch roundup, we are looking at how the rise of sober curiosity gave way to a curious comeback for the soda industry. Also, we’re taking a look at how breakfast has evolved to become a more convenient and efficient meal to match today’s consumer and a bird’s eye view of what today’s average American independent restaurant looks like.

One of the biggest challenges facing the ever-growing food delivery industry? Communication. Whether it’s about missing orders, late or cold food, or complete order mix-ups, third-party delivery is clearly still facing growing pains.

In fact, consumers experience problems with third-party food delivery websites nearly one-quarter (24.4%) of the time, according to a study of 1,084 customers from Zion & Zion. Here are their biggest complaints:

  • Wrong temperature (28.4%)
  • Unacceptably late (27.5%)
  • Side dish missing/incorrect (21.4%)
  • Main dish missing/incorrect (20.9%)

And customers aren’t just taking these errors in stride. According to the study 51% of respondents are “very frustrated” when their order is wrong. And when issues do happen, non-Millennials (aka older generations) are 56.3% likely to complain to the restaurant, while Millennials are only 34.2% likely to complain to the restaurant. Neither age group is likely to complain to the delivery platform directly.

“As the study shows, when there is a delivery problem, customers often blame both parties because they don’t know who to blame,” Zion & Zion CEO Aric Zion said. “To fix this, delivery app companies need to provide more transparency into the process of how an order gets processed. If consumers know which party performed each function, then they would be more likely to blame the responsible party.”

Soda drinking spikes as sober curiosity trend continues

Nielsen says that more than one in five U.S. consumers participated in Dry January last year. As sober curiosity continues to take off, one industry is taking advantage of the spiritless trend: soft drinks.   

According to Nielsen, soft drinks were consumed by nearly half (46%) of all Dry January participants, more so than water (43%). The growth in popularity of beverage alternatives has led to a 2.9% surge in soft drink sales in 2019. The comeback of sugary drinks is juxtaposed with increasing interest in healthy habits and wellness-based eating.

“Soft drinks are a reliable alternative in social gatherings for abstainers who are looking for more than water,” Matt Crompton, Client Solutions Director for Nielsen CGA said in a statement. “And as soft drink manufacturers and brands continue to evolve meet healthier lifestyles (with reduced-sugar, healthier and premium options), the opportunity to effectively and strategically engage both the regular and occasional abstainers will continue to grow.”

Worth the splurge?

When it comes to treating themselves, consumers are more likely to spend their money on restaurant meals than any other category.

In fact, according to a study by public relations agency 5WPR, dining out is the number-one splurge-worthy category and 43% of consumers find themselves spending more of their paycheck on restaurant meals, followed by travel and experiences (41%) and snacks (39%), and well ahead of material possessions like electronics (35%) and clothing (27%).

This is what the average independent restaurant looks like

Datassential recently curated data on 500 single-unit operators to find out what they’re serving, how they’re running their business, and how they’re growing. Here’s a snapshot of the average American independent restaurant:

  • A casual-dining restaurant (39%)
  • In a suburban area (45%)
  • Serving American cuisine, particularly familiar comfort foods (32%)
  • Working with outside investors (39%) to upgrade and modernize their restaurant
  • Serving mostly scratch-made food (39%) on all-day menus (72%) but with more lunch and dinner-specific menus than their chain counterparts

Good-old reliable breakfast is changing: Here’s how

Breakfast has always been one of the most important meals of the day in American diets and while that’s not changing — Americans consumed 102 billion breakfasts in 2019 — but it’s starting to evolve.

According to NPD Group, the usual eggs and bacon may not cut it for the convenience-obsessed American of today. Americans are looking for functional, convenient and functional morning meals: whether that comes from a quick-service breakfast or an on-the-go snack.  

“Solutions would be the foods and beverages that meet those needs or mechanisms, like mobile ordering, that are convenient and save them time,” an analyst with NPD group said.

But just because non-traditional breakfast, like burgers, is on the rise, don’t go changing your breakfast menu just yet:

“In terms of servings volume, the top breakfast foods are traditional, like breakfast sandwiches and wraps, bacon/sausage/ham, sweet breads, potatoes, savory breads, eggs/omelets, and pancakes/waffles/French toast,” the NPD Group representative said.

Effective digital marketing starts with more deals and coupons, study says    

Digital marketing is a must for any restaurant today looking to reach or expand their customer base. But what’s the best strategy? According to marketing and advertising firm AdTheorent’s Dining Trends Report, consumers are not as loyal as they once were: About one in four customers will go to their preferred restaurant’s competitor if they receive a mobile device ad on the way to a quick-service or fast-casual restaurant. 

With all of the noise from native advertisements on social media to popup ads and email marketing campaigns, the best digital advertising strategy is to offer a personalized deal. According to AdTheorent, the top ads that attract attention are the ones that provide a special offer (38% of consumers) that is specially tailored to their interests and consumer habits (71% of consumers).

“Restaurants can improve their advertising experience for consumers through a combination of proper targeting and messaging,” Jim Lawson, CEO of AdTheorent said. "Our research shows that relevant and tailored ads are more well received and drive superior results for marketers." 

To further emphasize the importance of personalized digital coupons, the AdTheorent study shows that 70% of consumers use their mobile devices when selecting and ordering from a restaurant, and nearly half (42%) are looking for coupons and deals. In comparison, only 32% are placing a food order.

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