Consumers are savvier about what they eat, and their desire for more locally sourced food is growing, according to new research from the National Restaurant Association.
To meet the increased demand, restaurateurs are offering more local food on their menus. Here are three findings from the Association’s 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast to illustrate the trend’s popularity:
1. When you serve it, they will come.
Sixty-eight percent of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a restaurant serving locally sourced items than one that doesn’t. Broken down by gender, 73 percent of women and 63 percent of men say they’d go to restaurants offering local fare.
2. More operators are going local.
Chefs cited locally sourced meats and seafood as the top menu trend for 2016, according to the NRA’s “What’s Hot” survey. NRA operator research shows restaurateurs across all segments are offering these items with more frequency. In the fine-dining segment, 81 percent of restaurateurs say they serve locally produced protein. Fifty-nine percent of casual-dining, 43 percent of family-dining, 35 percent of fast-casual and 10 percent of quickservice operators report similarly.
Ninety-two percent of fine-dining restaurateurs say they plan to add a locally sourced item to their menus this year, along with 73 percent of casual, 63 percent of fast-casual, 50 percent of family-dining, and 35 percent of quickservice operators.
3. Gardens will grow.
Operators in most segments say they believe the seed for more restaurant gardens has been planted. Seventy-five percent of fine-dining restaurateurs say the trend will become more popular, along with 50 percent of casual, 41 percent of fast-casual, and 34 percent of family-dining restaurateurs.
In addition to increased guest interest in local foods, restaurant operators are focused on environmental sustainability. Seventy-one percent of fine-dining operators say they offer food grown or raised in an organic or environmentally sustainable way. That goes for 46 percent of casual-dining, 35 percent of fast-casual, 33 percent of quickservice and 29 percent of family-dining restaurant operators .
Restaurateurs are examining all aspects of their operations to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. Sixty percent of consumers say they likely would choose a restaurant based on its eco-friendly practices, such as water conservation and recycling,.
“The desire for sustainable food and environmental sustainability is growing and restaurateurs are trying to accommodate that interest,” says the NRA’s Conserve program director, Jeff Clark. “They know their customers will reward their responsible behavior with brand loyalty.”
To get more information about the 2016 Restaurant Industry Forecast, go here.