This Week In Foodservice

The editorial team aggregates key industry information and provides brief analysis to help foodservice professionals navigate the data.


Consumers Plan to Offset Holiday Stress with the Help of Restaurants

Consumers plan to let restaurants do at least some of the cooking this holiday season. Unattended retail is popping up in all sorts of places. Plus, a fitting homage for Colonel Sanders in Kentucky.

Apparently using restaurants to offset holiday stress is high on consumers’ wish lists for the season. In fact, 77% of consumers will cope with holiday demands by letting restaurants do some of their cooking during the coming weeks, per a study from the National Restaurant Association.

The study shows 57% of consumers plan to go out to eat at a restaurant, while 50% plan to order takeout or delivery for a gathering at home during the holidays. One in four consumers plans to do both. When asked about why they plan to include restaurant meals in their holiday plans:

  • 88% said dining out or ordering a meal from a restaurant is a good way to support businesses in their community during the holidays.
  • 82% said letting restaurants do the cooking is easy and reduces their stress.
  • 78% said a restaurant gives them an opportunity to socialize with family and/or friends and is a better use of their time than cooking and cleaning up.

Not surprisingly, when choosing the restaurant, convenience and loyalty were top of mind for most consumers. A restaurant close to home was the top pick for 94% of consumers going out to eat and 91% planning to order out, per the NRA.

Foodservice News This Week

  • Unattended retail is one trend that seems poised to really take off in the coming year. The concept continues to gain momentum across a variety of operator segments. For example, earlier this year FE&S wrote about Doctor’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, adding a robotic coffee kiosk. Since that time, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center added the same type of solution. And when this same solution showed up at the Association for Healthcare Foodservice Conference in August it generated quite a buzz. Popcorn seems to be another growing segment of this approach. This summer the Philadelphia Phillies introduced an unattended popcorn kiosk at its stadium. Travelers using terminal three in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport can purchase popcorn from an unattended vending machine, there, too. This one is from local Chicago company Nuts on Clark. The reasons operators continue to migrate toward unattended vending are hard to ignore as this approach enhances the speed of service, helps maximize labor and can provide customers with a quality product. While airport concessionaires appear to be early adopters of unattended retail solutions, there seem to be plenty of opportunities for lots of segments to get on board.
  • A legacy chain gave a nod to its past while embracing the future. KFC got its start in Corbin, Ky., and the redesigned Harland Sanders Café and Museum takes the celebration of KFC to the next level, as restaurant development + design magazine reports. The design of the space does good of not only celebrating Sanders’ life but also providing a contemporary KFC experience.
  • Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux is set to debut a new restaurant prototype. Dubbed the Wildcat will serve as the blueprint for six more locations franchisee DMBC is developing.
  • Growth Chains: Multiconcept operator FAT Brands plans to open a Fazoli’s restaurant in both Denton, Texas, and Shreveport, La., during the coming year. Beverage chain Swig opened a location in Ft. Worth, Texas. Charleys Philly Steaks opened a location in Canton, Ohio. The chain has more than 700 units systemwide. Fast-casual chain sweetgreen opened its first location in Tampa, Fla. The 2,860 square foot space will accommodate 47 indoor diners with a variety of seating options ranging from booths to banquets to counter seating, as well as a large community table that highlights the specialty art feature done by local artist, Ari Robison. The restaurant will also feature a large outdoor patio for up to 34 people. Postino WineCafé entered the California market by opening a location in Irvine, Calif.

Economic News This Week

  • The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.3% in November, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Final demand prices also rose 0.3% in both October and September. On an unadjusted basis, the index for final demand moved up 7.4% for the 12 months ending in November. Most of November’s increase in final demand is attributable to a 0.4% increase in prices for final demand services, per the BLS. The index for final demand goods inched up 0.1%. The index for final demand less food, energy and trade also increased 0.3%.
  • Initial jobless claims totaled 230,000 for the week-ending December 3, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week, per the U.S. Department of Labor. This marks a 10-month high for initial jobless claims, per several published reports. Despite jobless claims ticking up, the fact remains the labor market is tight. The 4-week moving average was 230,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week’s revised average.
  • Consumer sentiment showed some improvement in December, per the latest data from the University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment. In fact, all three indices that comprise the study showed slight improvement. The overall index of consumer sentiment climbed to 59.1 in December, up from 56.8 in November. Similarly, the current economic conditions increased 1.4 points and the index of consumer expectations grew by 2.8 points. While any improvement at this point is good, comparing the data from December 2022 to the same month in 2021 can be pretty sobering. The overall index is down 16.3% year-over-year, with the subindices posting similarly grim comparisons.
  • Consumer credit increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.9% in October, per the U.S. Federal Reserve. Revolving credit increased at an annual rate of 10.4%, while nonrevolving credit increased at an annual rate of 5.8%.
  • Despite showing some slight improvement, the outlook of small business owners remains muted. The latest NFIB Small Business Optimism Index increased 0.6 points in November for a reading of 91.9. Despite this increase, November represents the 11th consecutive month where the index was below its 49-year average of 98. Inflation remains the top priority, with 32% of small business owners saying it represents their single most important problem. Owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months improved three points from October to a net negative 43%, a recession reading. Also, 44% of owners report job openings that are hard to fill, down 2 points from October, but historically high and not typical of a recession period.