The State Of What Feeds Us – 5th Installment On Consumer Trends

October 14th, 2021

Restaurant Customer Trends

Over the last 16 months Bluedot Research has been collecting data on consumer restaurant trends and expectations. For their latest edition of The State of What Feeds Us they surveyed 1,508 adults to gather the latest information aimed at assisting restaurants in continuing to navigate through these challenging times. Among their key findings are:

Mobile Apps

• 59% of consumers reported downloading at least one new restaurant app within the last 3 months.

• 57% order mostly from restaurant apps rather than 3rd party apps.

• Among the main reasons given for deleting an app were that it didn’t offer a full selection of all menu items and that it didn’t give them an option to customize their order.

Problems With Pickup

• Only 1 in 4 of consumers reported that their pickup experience was stress free.

• The key complaint, made by 44% of respondents, was that they still had to wait for an order after having been told it was ready. This was followed closely at 36% by both receiving cold food and getting an inaccurate order.

Pricing Increases

• Customers are noticing that menu prices are going up and 63% reported either ordering less or visiting less frequently as a result.

Loyalty Programs

• Close to 2/3 (63%) of those surveyed said that loyalty programs give them an incentive to visit a restaurant more often.

• Receiving points and/or dollars was ranked as the most important element of a loyalty program, followed closely by access to coupons or special deals.

The full 5th installment of The State of What Feeds Us may be found on the Bluedot website, along with downloads of their previous four reports.

Portland Restaurants Among Those Eligible For Restaurant Strong Fund Grants

October 7th, 2021

Portland Restaurant Grants

Grubhub and The Greg Hill Foundation’s Restaurant Strong Fund announced today that they will be giving $4 million in grants to independent restaurants in seven cities. Beginning October 13 through October 20, restaurants (with fewer than 5 locations) in Portland, Denver, Baltimore, New York, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia can submit their applications. The first 500 applications from each city will be accepted and the funds will be distributed in mid-November.

The grants, which will be funded by Grubhub’s Donate the Change Program, are intended to assist restaurant owners in paying for indoor and outdoor dining improvements, marketing and promotion efforts, infrastructure improvements, equipment and technology maintenance and upgrades, staff hiring and training, and Covid-19 compliance. The individual grants will range from $5,000 to $50,000. This will be the third program this year that Grubhub and The Greg Hill Foundation have collaborated on to support the restaurant industry.

In today’s press release Kevin Kearns, Grubhub’s senior VP of restaurants, said, "We've been hearing that they need support across multiple areas, including hiring and staffing efforts and getting the proper safety equipment for indoor and outdoor dining, and we're proud to continue working with the Restaurant Strong Fund to provide a much-needed lifeline to restaurants across the country."

Details about the grants along with application instructions can be found on the Restaurant Strong website.

2021 National Food Safety Month

October 1st, 2021

National Food Safety Month

September is National Food Safety Month and this year’s theme was Know Safe & Show Safe. As in previous years, the National Restaurant Association has held a month-long series providing free posters, activity sheets and blog posts with a weekly focus:

Week 1: Cleaning. Sanitizing. Disinfecting.

While this has always been essential to running a restaurant, due to the pandemic your customers now want to know that you’re following the correct protocols. The first segment of the series goes in depth into the differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting as well as providing clear guidance on where, when and how to go about each.

Week 2: How to Clean & Sanitize Equipment

Improperly cleaned equipment can lead to the transmission of food borne illnesses. The materials in week two furnish a detailed review of how to properly maintain your kitchen equipment and keep your customers safe.

Week 3: Cleaning & Sanitizing Dishes

In this age of heightened awareness, your customers need to see that you’re maintaining clean cookware and tableware. Week 3 delves into the nitty gritty of this process for both manual and machine washing.

Week 4: Cleaning & Sanitizing Your Operations

Long before enjoying their food, your guests will notice whether your floors, walls and ceilings are clean. This week highlights cleaning of nonfood-contact surfaces as well as providing insight into how to proceed should a guest or staff member get sick in your place of business.

Week 5: Developing & Implementing a Cleaning Program

Having a master cleaning plan is essential to keeping things running smoothly. The materials in the final week of NFSM review the “what, who and how” of creating your plan as well as how to determine if that plan is working or requires some tweaking.

All of this year’s materials, as well as two webinars and COVID-19 resources, are available on the National Restaurant Association’s ServsSafe website.

Restaurants Left Out of Restaurant Revitalization Fund Grants Given Additional EIDL Options

September 16th, 2021

COVID-19 EIDL Restaurants

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced changes to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program that make it easier for restaurants, and other small businesses impacted by COVID-19, to access over $150 billion in funding. Among the key enhancements, which are effective immediately, are:

• An increase of the COVID-19 EIDL cap from $500,000 to $2 million. Loan funds may be used for any normal operating expenses and working capital, including payroll, purchasing equipment, and paying debt. They may also be used to prepay commercial debt and make payments on federal business debt. Restaurants that qualified for an EIDL loan while the $500,000 cap was in effect can re-apply for more funds.

• A deferred payment period. Business owners will not have to begin repayment of the 30-year loan until 2 years after its origination. Interest will accrue during the first 24 months and payments of the principal and interest are made over the remaining 28 years.

• Simplified eligibility criteria. To ease the application process for small businesses, the SBA has simplified affiliation requirements to mimic those of the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

EIDL loans carry a lower interest and have a longer repayment term than commercial bank loans or lines of credit, making them a valuable option for restaurant owners. Applications can be submitted through December 31, 2021, as long as funds are available.

The National Restaurant Association has created a fact sheet with further details on the EIDL program and has posted a free webinar with Patrick Kelley, Associate Administrator, Office of Capital Access SBA. To apply for a loan, visit the SBA COVID-19 EIDL portal.

National Restaurant Association Releases Mid-Year Report

September 9th, 2021

2021 State of the Industry Report

The 2021 State of the Industry Report mid-year update has been released by the National Restaurant Association (NRA). As stated in the press release, the report provides insight into the continued impact of COVID-19 on the foodservice industry by looking at trends and key indicators as of June/July 2021.

Among the key findings are:

Food & Labor Costs Continue To Be A Challenge

• Wholesale food costs are increasing at their fastest rate in 7 years.

 Menu prices rose 3.9% - an increase that is on course to be the strongest annual increase since 2008.

 75% of restaurant operators said that recruiting and retaining employees was the top challenge facing them as a business.

Some COVID Related Trends Are Here To Stay

 52% of adults want to see restaurants incorporate more technology to make ordering and payment easier.

 Alcohol to-go remains hugely popular. 39 states currently allow cocktails-to-go in some capacity. Sixteen of these, as well as DC, have made cocktails-to-go permanent.

 Outdoor dining continues to benefit restaurants and diners. 90% of restaurant operators plan to continue serving in expanded outdoor seating areas for as long as their jurisdiction allows and 84% of adults would like to see this option become permanent.

The Delta Variant May Threaten Restaurant Recovery

 Since the rise of the Delta variant, 6 out of 10 adults have changed how they use restaurants.

 In an August NRA survey of 1000 adults, 37% said that they chose delivery or take-out rather than dining in.

 19% of the respondents said that they have completely stopped going to restaurants.

The effects of COVID-19 have been deeply felt throughout the hospitality industry and operators have had to innovate and adapt to meet the changing expectations of consumers. Despite these challenges, restaurants made significant strides toward rebuilding in the first half of 2021. Per Tom Bené, President and CEO of the NRA:

Restaurant operators, along with their partners throughout the supply and distribution chain, remain focused on providing diners with a safe and enjoyable experience, amid rising food and labor costs and challenges related to the pandemic. Given these factors, our outlook through the end of the year is one of cautious optimism.

The full 2021 State of the Industry Report update is available through the National Restaurant Association website. They will continue to monitor the pandemic’s effects on the foodservice sector and will release their full report in early 2021.