While 38% of Americans admit they eat out less than in the past, restaurants should take heart, says the National Restaurant Association. In a new survey, the organization found that most Americans feel that the improving economy will eventually help restaurateurs in 2015 as people are feeling more comfortable with the idea that they can afford to eat out a bit more.
Diners Hate Noise
Nation's Restaurant News conducted a recent survey of more than 1,200 diners asking them about noisy restaurants. Nearly 80% of consumers say they hate it, 14% claim they do not notice it, while 7% claim they love it. The problem is, restaurants are getting noisier, notes a Zagat's Dining Trends Survey. The reasons for the growing din vary from more open restaurant designs and more tables per square foot, to a conscious decision to cater to a younger bar crowd. How do you strike the right balance between pleasant buzz and outright obnoxious? There seem to be as many solutions as there are opinions. Among some of the more helpful ideas are tasteful use of music, good design that allows each dining party some sense of privacy, strategically placed sound absorption panels, and the help of a good architect or interior designer.
Restaurant Costs Increasing
The economy may be improving, but rising costs are eating into profits, AlixPartners reports in a new study of the restaurant industry. Part of the ballooning cost equation is an investment in new point-of-sale technologies and analytics, the report says. Rising commodity prices and increasing labor costs are hitting the bottom line as well. While wheat, rice, and corn prices are down substantially, the nearly 40% increase in the cost of beef are putting the squeeze on restaurants. "Despite healthier balance sheets, the industry at large is facing a serious cost problem" says Eric Dzwonczyk, managing director at AlixPartners, in a press release. "Restaurants did a good job of cutting costs during the recession, but they've crept back in recently and need to be dealt with."
EPA’s Failure To Act On Renewable Fuel Standard Is Hurting Restaurant Industry
Following the EPA’s decision to delay a ruling on the ethanol volume mandate, the National Restaurant Association lodged an official compliant that the EPA’s inaction is helping to inflate all commodity prices, which are costing the restaurant industry billions of dollars. Since 2006, up to 40% of the nation’s corn crop is siphoned off for ethanol production. "We are disappointed that the EPA has decided to further delay this important decision,” says Scott DeFife, EVP, National Restaurant Association, in a news release. “Restaurants are being severely challenged by the sharp increase in wholesale food prices, due in part to the RFS. This announcement is just more evidence that the RFS is truly broken and must be fixed."
Promoting Sustainability Is Good For Business
Being “green” has taken on a whole new meaning following research by Packaged Facts. The company recently found that sustainable practices in restaurants are not only good for the environment, they attract more customers, too. Women and higher-income clientele are especially attuned to sustainability. So the message is this: If you do it, flaunt it.
Food Labeling Laws Changing
New labeling rules were unveiled last week for all restaurants, grocery deli counters, convenience stores, and other outlets with more than 20 locations to post calorie counts on the food they serve. Few experts feel the rules will change people’s eating habits, but they do feel that restaurants might think twice about offering calorie-laden dishes, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Beverage companies are also expected to offer lower calorie drinks. The FDA issued rules that were actually stronger than what had been proposed. The new rules even cover movie theaters and alcoholic drinks.
Coca-Cola Introduces A New Milk
CBS is reporting that Coca-Cola is introducing a “new” milk that has fewer calories, 50% more protein, 50% less sugar, and 30% more calcium. Called Fairlife, the product is part of Coke’s premium line of products and will carry a premium price, too. The milk is cold filtered to remove fat and sugar and does not have any lactose or added protein. First introduced in Minnesota, Fairlife’s success there led Coke to make the decision to roll out the product nationwide in February. "Consumers are looking for better-quality, great-tasting nutrition that comes from the highest-quality milk," said Steve Jones, chief executive officer of Fairlife LLC, Chicago. "With Fairlife, we're bringing [consumers] a delicious and more-nutritious milk than anything in the market with a breakthrough campaign that shows how sexy vitality can be."
GMO Ban In Oregon Falls Short… Maybe
The public referendum against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the human food supply is going for a recount in Oregon, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Known as Measure 92, the Oregon Mandatory Labeling of GMOs initiative calls for the labeling of raw and packaged foods produced entirely or partially by “genetic engineering,” effective January 2016. The recount effort will continue through December 12.
Human Interaction Still Tops In Restaurant Business
Customer-facing technology is changing the face of the foodservice business. Customers are downloading more apps, ordering off of tablets, and paying bills with their phones. Despite all the hi-tech, most people still like the personal touch, the National Restaurant Association says, and may prefer dealing directly with wait staff. What may come as a surprise is this: Millennials, 18 to 34 outnumbered consumers over 65 in wanting to deal directly with another person. Fifty-nine percent of consumers ages 35 to 44 said they prefer dealing with people, as did 46 percent of those ages 45 to 55.