As the COVID-19 health emergency has Americans sheltering at home, going out to shop for essentials like groceries and household staples, c-stores may be in a better position to weather the coronavirus storm.
Amid all the chaos, restaurants are getting creative and finding new ways to keep their businesses afloat. With food front and center in the crisis, c-stores and their takeout-oriented and enhanced foodservice operations can play a role in feeding Americans.
Data from food industry analyst Datassential’s fielded with 1,000 U.S. consumers last week revealed how what has quickly become a nation of takeout diners is choosing where to get its prepared foods. First and foremost, ordering food from outside the home has dropped during the crisis.
While the crisis has caused a massive shift away from restaurants, especially with several states barring sit-down dining while still allowing to-go orders. That said, c-stores may have an upper hand, considering that they specialize in portable foods. One of those, pizza, tops the list of what hungry, hunkered-down consumers prefer from restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis.
And while it starts with pizza, it certainly doesn’t end there. Consumers are also hungry for burgers, meat entrees, pastas, and other options. Datassential’s advice is to stick with the favorites.
“Many who in the past might ‘live to eat’ have shifted to an ‘eat to live’ mindset,” reports Datassential. “Focus on popular menu items and show the customer that they’re totally safe.”
Cleanliness Trumps Taste
According to Datassential, in regular times, “great taste” is universally the thing consumers care most about when selecting a restaurant. But these aren’t normal times, and perhaps somewhat predictably, cleanliness today sits alone at the top of the list. This is nonetheless remarkable – people care more if a restaurant is clean than if it tastes good.
Consider the marketing implications. Rather than the beautiful food visuals that restaurants have long relied upon to promote themselves, it may be more effective to lead with a message around sanitation and safety.
When ordering from a restaurant, Datassential reports that almost half would purchase extra meals for the days to come. The desire for multiples is stronger among females and Millennials and Gen X.
Whether due to fear of sharing or the desire for convenience, customers willing to order multiple meals prefer food in individual containers. This is the clear choice across all demographics. Six out of 10 those questioned would select multiple portions of food in their own individual containers over bulk or family-sized serving trays o food to be eaten over several meals.