The foodservice industry can build incremental sales by appealing to middle- and lower-income consumers as much as those with greater disposable income, according to new research from Technomic.

Income levels influence how often and why consumers choose foodservice occasions, and twice as many "affluent" as "working" consumers (50 percent vs. 27 percent) use foodservice more than once a week. Higher disposable income and time pressures prompt affluent consumers to seek out convenient, high-quality meal options.

Technomic reported, however, that affluent consumers are only a small share of the total foodservice market, and it would be remiss to ignore patronage and purchasing decisions among middle- and lower-income groups in order to learn how to build incremental sales.

Monthly patronage at fast casual restaurants and coffee shops skews to affluent and upper-middle income groups; however, quick-service restaurant patronage is comparable among all groups.

In contrast, upper-middle and affluent consumers are far more likely than their working and lower-middle counterparts to visit full-service restaurants once a month or more often. To appeal to economically diverse foodservice consumers, restaurants should offer a varied, barbell menu, said Darren Tristano, Technomic EVP.

"On one side of the menu there are products that appeal to price-sensitive customers, for example, dollar menus. Lower-priced items can retain customer patronage and possibly lead to trading up at future visits. In contrast, you've got items that appeal to customers who see price as a secondary factor. They may be trading down from an expensive restaurant but still want some higher-end menu options. Most of the menu, however, focuses on your core products. Now you have something for everyone," he said.

Technomic's Influence of Income Consumer Trend Report includes insights on how to target consumers by affluence. Some findings include:

  • Two-fifths (43 percent) of affluent consumers compared to 27 percent of working consumers say they prefer restaurants that offer new or innovative flavors and ingredients;
  • Takeout usage skews to lower-income consumers: 58 percent of affluent consumers' foodservice occasions are for dine in, compared to just 42 percent of working consumers' foodservice occasions;
  • Affluent consumers are still value shoppers: 41 percent of affluent consumers versus 30 percent of working consumers say loyalty and rewards programs can encourage them to visit specific restaurants over others; and
  • 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. Meanwhile, 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.

Read more about trends and statistics.

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