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The Explosion of Consumer Choice: New Dining Options

The Explosion of Consumer Choice: New Dining Options


Last Published: 12/21/2017

The Explosion of Consumer Choice: New Dining Options

New options available to consumers for dining vary in size and scope. They each offer something different and meet key needstates. 

Food trucks — Food trucks are becoming more prominent in America’s cities as a way to provide convenient, unique meals at affordable prices. Trucks park near office buildings, schools and parks, often providing foods other than the brick-and-mortar locations nearby. Social media has been key to their success as owners typically communicate with customers via Twitter. While food trucks are often independently-owned businesses, chain restaurants are expanding their footprint to include this outlet. Johnny Rockets and KFC are two examples of restaurant chains that have limited-time food trucks.

Retail Meal Solutions (RMS) — As consumers become more reliant on foodservice, retailers have expanded their prepared-food offerings to include whole family meals as well as individual options. Today, RMS accounts for 7.6% of all foodservice with $52 billion in sales.* This success can be attributed to their convenient, high-quality and affordable meal options. In an effort to gain greater share, retailers are expanding RMS to become a dining destination through in-store dining areas and by adding new foods and beverages.

Gourmet grocerants — These locations, which have emerged in the last 10 years, are large marketplaces that include restaurants, stores and even cooking schools. The idea is to buy foods and beverages to take home. Consumers get a full spectrum of dining options where they can eat, learn about food and shop. One example is Eataly, which opened its first location in Italy in 2007. Now, there are nearly 30 stores worldwide, including in New York City and Chicago. Stores will open in Boston and L.A. soon.

Vending machines — When vending machines come to mind, you probably think of candy, chips or soda. But due to advances in technology, vending machine offerings are becoming more sophisticated with more than just snacks. There are machines in the marketplace that can provide healthy refrigerated snacks, like hummus or fruit, whole meals and even cook items. For example, Salvatore’s Old Fashioned Pizzeria partnered with Pizzametry for a pizza vending machine that makes a hot personal pan pizza in three and a half minutes. Last summer, Orange County Public Schools tested vending machine meals. Area chefs prepared meals that were then added to three refrigerated vending machines within the schools.

Meal kits — A $1.4 billion market, meal kits appeared just a few years ago. Companies deliver recipes and ingredients to people’s homes, ready for preparation. While consumers still have to cook, meal kits make cooking more convenient by saving consumers the time it takes to find a recipe and shop for ingredients. While still in the early stages, meal kits show a promising future, as one-third of consumers say they may sign up for a meal kit delivery service within the next year.*

*Technomic Research & Consulting 2016 Surveys

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