3 Ways Restaurants Can Keep up with Consumers’ Need for Convenience

In today’s world, offering grab-and-go eats is imperative

Written in collaboration with Winsight®

Without consumers’ need for convenience, there might not be a modern-day restaurant industry. The ease of having someone else prepare and serve a meal is the very foundation upon which the business was built. But now, the business is changing at lightning speed. How is convenience changing with it? Research from Technomic reveals a few areas of particular opportunity for places aiming at customers on the go.

1) Breakfast sandwiches

According to Technomic’s 2019 Breakfast Consumer Trend Report, 45% of consumers say the reason they skip breakfast during the week is because they don’t have time to eat it. What’s more, 27% say they are eating breakfast on the go more now than they were two years ago. Breakfast sandwiches not only are a preferred breakfast dish for 48% of consumers but also are convenient to pick up quickly and take along to eat at a different destination. For operators looking to secure breakfast business, offering quick, grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches that are served hot can be a great way to do so. Offer a few different options, including a vegetarian option and a few different types of bread, to increase appeal; this way, consumers have a number of options to pick from.

2) Ready-to-eat soup combos for lunch

Soups and salads are increasingly being positioned not only as light lunch or dinner options but also as quick snacks for between meals, with operators serving them in smaller portions as well as in portable containers to increase their convenience. That said, grab-and-go combos that include options such as a half-sandwich or small salad can be a great way to compete with local stores for lunchtime business. Instead of stopping by the corner store for a cup of instant noodles, for example, consumers can order from a local restaurant and get a comforting, filling lunchtime meal, all in the same time it would take to heat up water for those instant noodles. Technomic’s 2018 Soup and Salad Consumer Trend Report finds that 51% of consumers say it’s important that soup can be bundled with other items, with sandwiches, wraps and salads being top picks for pairings.

Operators can simply menu portioned cups of their soup of the day, along with pre-prepared sandwich or salad options, to capture today’s demand.

3) Speed-scratch, customizable pasta dishes

For consumers seeking heartier fare even while in a rush, convenience stores have been ideal spots. With roller grill items and prepackaged frozen meals, consumers can get in and get out in minutes, and enjoy a filling meal without having to wait in the drive-thru or for delivery. But these meals, while quick, might not be consumers’ first choice when picking a delicious meal. Instead, why not offer customizable options that feature speed-scratch ingredients (to facilitate prep) that can be offered as a grab-and-go option or an order-ahead meal? This way, diners don’t have to settle for prepackaged meals and can add the toppings they love most.

Operators can use frozen soups and other prepared ingredients to create innovative, craveable sauces. Try using tomato soup as a base for vodka sauce for penne a la vodka, or cream of broccoli soup as a base for a new take on an alfredo sauce—just add cheese! To ensure grab-and-go pastas taste fresh, be sure to package the sauce in separate containers so the pasta doesn’t get soggy. And don’t forget your pre-portioned garnishes on the side for that customization experience.

Convenience retailers have long had a hold on the market for quick, convenient meals. But as consumers increasingly gravitate toward fresh and customizable options, restaurants have the opportunity to jump into the ring. Offering grab-and-go options for all dayparts—such as sandwiches for breakfast, soup combos at lunch and make-your-own pasta dishes for lunch and dinner—is a great way for restaurants to make the most of current times.