Reflecting restaurant patrons' increasing interest in pick-me-ups between regular meals, menu items described as "snacks," "snackable" or "snacker" have leaped by 170% since 2007, according to new research from Mintel Menu Insights.
Snacking options represent a "huge" opportunity to drive traffic and sales during non-peak hours and throughout the day, for restaurant formats ranging from quick service to fine dining, says Eric Giandelone, director of foodservice research at Mintel.
More than a third (37%) of consumer respondents indicated that they are most likely to visit restaurants for snacks in the early and late afternoon hours (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.).
However, while only 19% purchase snacks in restaurants between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., these diners spend more: $4.26 per person, on average, versus $3.79 per person across all other time periods.
This points to the need for operators to offer different types of snacks for different dayparts. "Heartier and pricier fare may have more appeal later in the day, while light options may work best in the morning or early afternoon," notes Giandelone.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers say they look for a beverage when snacking at restaurants, and 61% say they choose portable items.
While the restaurant industry is striving to tap growing opportunities in offering a wider variety of healthier menu options, as is true with entrées, relatively few consumers say they actually choose healthy options when it comes to snacks (32%).
More than half (52%) report that they tend to crave "indulgent" snacks, and half say they gravitate toward something salty to nibble on.