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Restaurants may want to watch their backs. According to a new survey by Technomic, more consumers are sourcing prepared meals from a wider range of retail foodservice operations than they were two years ago, and they’re doing so in lieu of restaurants.

Traditional supermarkets, convenience stores and mass merchandisers have been able to grow their share of the food-away-from-home market as they expand their foodservice platforms and build upon consumer desire for convenience, quality and variety of offerings in retail locations.

“Retailers benefit from the fact that consumers are already visiting them for other purchases.” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. “If retailers can offer a foodservice option that rivals that of restaurants in terms of quality, freshness and variety, they can build on the advantage they inherently enjoy when it comes to convenience.”

Technomic’s new “Retailer Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report” was designed to help restaurant operators, manufacturers and retailers stay on top of evolving consumer attitudes and preferences with regard to retail meal solutions.

Some of the report’s findings include:

  • Health is an important factor in the real meal solutions (RMS) purchasing decision, and seems to be of greater importance for RMS occasions than for restaurant meals. About two in five consumers said they usually consider nutrition when purchasing prepared foods, compared to only about a quarter who say they consider nutrition when ordering food at restaurants.
  • Kid appeal stands out as the primary concept attribute that consumers think RMS programs are lacking. The attribute related to RMS’ appeal to children ranked among the bottom three for each type of retailer as compared to both limited- and full-service restaurants.
  • Forty percent of consumers who visit mass merchandisers and convenience stores for RMS purchases, do so at least once a week from those locations.

Technomic’s report covers dayparts, food categories and retail segments and was derived from an online survey of 1,500 consumers. The report reveals how RMS competes with restaurants through consumer comparisons between limited- and full-service restaurants and RMS on 25 attributes and amenities. It also includes detailed profiles of 20 retailer concepts, as well as retail foodservice sales growth data.

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