Because income levels greatly influence how often and why consumers use restaurants and other foodservice venues, varied menus are critical to attracting a broad spectrum of patrons, stresses a new report from food industry research and consultancy firm Technomic.
Actually, the core behavioral driver is disposable income, which is determined not just by income, but by household size and cost of living. For this reason, the “Influence of Income Consumer Trend Report” breaks consumers out by four categories: “working,” lower-middle, upper-middle and affluent.
Restaurant operators can cover their bases by creating menus that include one section featuring items that appeal to price-sensitive customers (dollar menus), one area with items appealing to customers who view price as a secondary consideration, and the rest featuring the restaurant’s core items, points out Technomic EVP Darren Tristano.
The report offers insights on how foodservice behaviors differ by income level, including:
* 50% of affluent
consumers use foodservice more than twice per week, versus 27% of “working” consumers. However, affluents represent only a small share of the total foodservice market.
* Monthly patronage at fast-casual restaurants and coffee shops skews to affluent and upper-middle income groups. Similarly, upper-middle and affluent consumers are far more likely than working and lower-middle income consumers to visit full-service restaurants once a month or more often.
* Fast-food restaurant patronage is comparable among all income groups.
* 43% of affluents, versus 27% of working consumers, say they prefer restaurants that offer new or innovative flavors and ingredients.
* 29% of affluents agree or agree “completely” that it’s important to them that restaurants serve “adult beverages.” In comparison, just 15%, 14% and 10% of upper-middle, lower-middle and working consumers agree with this, respectively.
* Takeout usage skews to lower-income consumers. Among affluents, 58% of foodservice occasions are dine-in, compared to just 42% among working consumers.
* Affluent consumers are still value shoppers. In fact, 41% of affluents, versus 30% of working consumers, say loyalty and rewards programs can encourage them to
visit specific restaurants over others.
* 45% of affluents say they are most likely to purchase foodservice meals for lunch, while 36% say the same about dinner, 24% about breakfast, and 19% about late-night meals or snacks.
* Traditional health claims that relate to calorie and fat content, such as low-calorie, low trans-fat and low-fat, resonate most strongly with upper-middle income consumers. Health-halo terms such as “local,” “seasonal” and “premium” are most appealing to affluent consumers, likely because they relate to the overall quality of the item and often, a higher price point.