Local, organic produce still hot restaurant trends - The Packer

Local, organic produce still hot restaurant trends

06/11/2009 05:22:10 PM
Ashley Bentley

Local and organic produce remain atop the list of trends in the restaurant industry.

Hudson Riehle brought up produce and its role in healthier menu options during his state of the industry speech at the NASDAQ OMX Food & Restaurant Industry Forum June 10. Riehle is senior vice president of the research and knowledge group of the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association.

Riehle echoed the association’s latest Restaurant Performance Index, which contained evidence the industry may be on its way back up.

Local and organic produce join nutritionally balanced kids’ dishes, bite-sized desserts, wraps, pitas and tortillas on the list of hot menu ingredients and options.

Riehle said sustainable practices are also making an impact. Half of fine-dining operations plan to be more “green,” Riehle said, and 45% of adults said they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on water and energy practices.

At the same time, consumers are looking for value, especially when deciding whether to eat out at a fullservice restaurant. The fullservice category has taken the hardest hit since the start of the economic downturn.

Riehle said restaurants can promote in certain ways to attract consumers.

“Three-fourths of consumers said they would patronize fullservice more often if they offered discounts for patronizing on less busy days,” Riehle said.

The ability to rapidly change prices depending on the day of the week, or even the time of day, will evolve, Riehle said.

Technology is also creating new opportunities in marketing and customer service, especially with younger consumers, Riehle said.

Social media

Following Riehle’s address were three industry panels, including “Marketing in a New World,” “Branding, Licensing & Growth” and “Business in the Current Economic Environment.”

Social mediums, including Facebook and Twitter, were hot topics when talking about new marketing in the restaurant industry. 

“First and foremost, this industry, more than any other, is really based on word-of-mouth, and that word-of-mouth now starts and ends online,” said Jake Fisher, director of media intelligence for Attention, a New York-based social media marketing and communications agency.

If Facebook were a country, it would be the seventh-largest, with 240 million people, Fisher said.

Both Facebook and Twitter have proven beneficial for attracting consumers, he said, but in different ways. Twitter is great for interacting with key people and people who do a lot of blogging, while Facebook is better for interacting between purchases, Fisher said.

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