A new report from The NPD Group says that a majority of consumers — 70 percent — won't try a new menu item even if they're heavily promoted. Almost 30 percent of consumers will try a new item.

NPD's foodservice market research report, "Menu Item Trial: Motivating First-Time and Repeat Orders" further shows that 17 percent of "early adopter" consumers will order a brand new menu item and 10 percent will try a limited time offer item.

According to a news release, consumers try a new or unfamiliar menu item based on their perceptions of its taste and visual appeal, but they also may consider healthfulness and price when making the decision to try a new item. Generally, consumers tend to replace their pre-planned menu item with a new menu item only if the new item is in the same food type as the product they had originally planned to order. The exception to this is snacks, where any other food type has an equal chance of being replaced, reports NPD.

A first-time menu item purchase during a restaurant visit occurs less frequently at QSRs than at full-service restaurants. The highest incidence of trial of a new or unfamiliar menu item occurs at casual dining places, which, according to NPD, relates to the quality/freshness of the ingredients used in the menu item, the item being a good meal accompaniment choice, and the ability for diners to share the menu item with others. Half of the new menu items ordered is main dishes while sandwiches make up almost half of the remaining new items ordered.

Broken down, the channel importance of new menu items is:

  • Casual dining: 40 percent — main dish, sandwich and side dish, respectively;
  • Midscale: 25 percent — main dish, sandwich and side dish;
  • QSR: 19 percent — sandwich, main dish and breakfast item;
  • Fast casual: 12 percent — main dish, sandwich and side dish;
  • Other: 5 percent.

"Insight into the reasons why consumers try a food or beverage menu item that they have not purchased before provides restaurant operators with the knowledge required for successful product innovation, introduction and marketing," Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant analyst, said in the release. "In addition, stimulating menu-item trial and delivering a satisfying experience should lead to repeat visits and sustained customer loyalty."

Read more about menu trends.

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