Based on trends over the past five years, retail food prices this year are expected to average about 2.4%, considerably higher than the five-year average of 1.8%, but a full half a percent lower than late last year, The Food Institute Report says. Interestingly, the restaurant industry has reached a new annual high point of some $700 billion a year – 75% of that derived from takeout and delivery, Smartbrief.com reports.
Chicken Over Steak
With beef prices soaring, consumers say they will choose chicken over beef, a new survey by Oklahoma State University says. Families participating in the survey say it is difficult to find foods that fit their budget. According to the survey, consumers make their purchasing decisions based on taste, safety, and price – in that order. With prices increasing, buyers seemed less concerned over country of origin or animal welfare issues, Oklahoma State notes.
No, it is not what you think. New findings by Technomic researchers find that consumers tend to follow their senses when ordering limited time offerings of foods that have seasonal flavoring. In fact, 48% of those surveyed say they have purchased limited time offerings off the menu in the past week. According to Technomic Gen Xers and Millennials lead the pack when it comes to trying out these specials. Most seasonal specials are sold by quick-service restaurants while casual restaurants see 18% of clientele willing to try a limited time offer.
Supreme Court Rejects Bid To Lower Debit Card Fees
Merchants hate it, but the banks love it. The U.S. Supreme Court recently left intact a ruling that allows banks to collect as much as 21 cents per debit card transaction. That adds up quickly, Bloomberg. com reports, totaling some $3 billion in fees a year. The suit, brought by the National Association of Convenience Stores, argued that the federal government is improperly letting banks recoup the fixed costs for their debit-card programs, including the money spent on network hardware, software and labor. Either way, consumers pay.
Whole Foods Opening Restaurants And Bars
Shop till you drop may take on a whole new meaning when Whole Foods Market opens in-store restaurants and bars, Crain’s Chicago Business reports. Six stores are slated to provide the added
benefits of restaurants and bars as a way to making shopping more appealing. “The chain is building off the success of its Lincoln Park mega-store, which with its three full-service bars was one of Whole Foods' first to feature the amenity when it opened five years ago,” Crain’s says. “The Austin, Texas-based chain has since expanded the idea to 110 of its 406 stores, and it is looking to do more.”
Micro-Markets On A Tear
What stands between a vending machine area and full-service café? How about micro-markets! These unmanned retail areas are among the fastest growing food concepts in the industry, Food Management.com reports. The concept offers a number of advantages – from lower operating costs to more variety, including an array of fresh foods. Plus they never close. As far as the fresh offerings, some of the vendors even partner with local restaurants to provide up to 40% of what they offer. “We start each market with a standard product mix,” says Jim Mitchell, President of Kansas City-based Company Kitchens (CK), which operates north of 1,000 micro-markets. “Then we customize based on the demographic.”
State Of The Union Message Upsets Restaurant Industry
Higher minimum wages. Paid sick leave. And more taxes. That is a combination that has restaurant owners across the country feeling a bit uncomfortable, Nation’s Restaurant News reports. While the National Restaurant Association says that its members support a stronger middle class and the idea that people deserve the chance to receive more training, it should not happen on the backs of small businesses nor is it a one-size-fits-all solution as proposed by more taxes.
The Young Set Is Staying Put In Cities… And Suburban Restaurants Are Worried
Blame it on the Great Recession. Fewer young professionals are moving into the suburbs after finishing up their educations, The Wall Street Journal reports. The reason? While there are many, the biggest reason is debt caused by their educational loans. As a result, young professionals simply cannot afford to move, and that is bad news for businesses in the suburbs that may see a drop in business over the coming years.
Despite hopes of a contract settlement earlier in the month, longshoremen continue their work slowdown over benefits issues. The slowdown is putting a real squeeze on the food industry. A number of food associations, importers, distributors, and retailers are now asking the ILWU to end their slowdown because it is costing the country an estimated $2 billion a day in lost revenues, says Jonathan Gold of the National Retail Federation.
Non-GMO Demand Is Exploding
After a string of bad press releases about GMO products, the demand for GMO-free items is soaring, NPR reports. Big brands, like General Foods, are racing to acquire the GMO-free label, even if they are not considered health foods. To acquire the label, a product cannot contain ingredients with more than 1 percent genetic modification. Still, more than 90% of products containing grain in the U.S have GMO ingredients. That passes through the entire food chain, including just about everything we eat. Researchers continue to target a safer GMO using synthetic biology. One Yale-Harvard team, for example, is working to rewrite “the genetic code of bacteria to use only synthetic chemicals to grow, but the GM bacteria would die if released into nature, so it would not impact other crops outside of its growing area,” the BBC reports.
Economy Is Improving But Consumers Still Struggling
Seen the headlines about the consolidation of wealth? Consider this: Even as the economy improves, 40% of consumers still find it hard to make ends meet, The Food Institute Report says. That helps to explain the rise in private-label sales over brand-named goods and it goes a long way in explaining the drop in diners at casual restaurants across the country. With precious little discretionary income, families continue to hold those purse strings pretty tightly. What’s a restaurant owner to do? Innovate, Experiment. Host special Family Nights Out. You might be surprised at how popular – and profitable -- they can be.