Changing consumer attitudes and behavior brought on by the pandemic, inflation, and social and political unrest continue to present challenges — and opportunities — for restaurant operators, according to “5 Challenges That Mean Opportunity for B2C This Year,” a report by Marlin Network, an Advantage Solutions destinations marketing agency.

In the report, Marlin Network Senior Vice President Strategic Planning & Insights Christopher Wolf looks at these challenges:

  • Pumped Prices Pushback — Menu prices for entrees have increased 13%, appetizers 18% and side dishes 23% since last year,  according to Datassential. “Consumers have noticed the increases and, anecdotally at least, they say they’re making tradeoffs and cutting back on things they can live without,” Wolf says. “But that’s not the end of the story: Consumers will still try new things in times like these.”
  • Self-Care Catalysts — Interest in “self-care” has tripled in Google searches in the past few years, Wolf notes. “Self-care doesn’t have to cost anything, but because it promises an intangible but highly prized payoff, it gives consumers an excuse to splurge on a catalyst or helper if they’re given the right cues to justify it. Certain foods or food experiences positioned as self-care could be a way around the current pushback on higher food costs.”
  • Plate/Patron/Planet — Wolf says consumers are looking for more enablers to make increasingly responsible choices that are personal and relevant to them. “Things have moved beyond companies simply certifying the sustainability of their products or practices,” he says.
  • Political Global — A development to watch will be the degree that global disruptions influence America’s interest in flavors and regions of this country and others, he notes. A 2021 Datassential survey shows that 72% of consumers disagree that “for food to be authentic, it must be made by a person from that culture.”
  • Non-Conventional Novelty — “Consumers have unspent savings and canceled/postponed events that need to be addressed,” Wolf says. “Catered events give restaurants an excuse to put their brand on wheels, with companies like In-N-Out and Shake Shack offering Cookout Trucks and Shack Trucks to serve their products to order, anywhere.”

“While it’s naive to deny the serious effects of an extended pandemic, continued inflation, ongoing supply-chain and labor force challenges, and a series of upheavals across the globe threatening economic and political collapse at any given time, it’s still possible and necessary to continue charting a course toward lands of opportunity that offer growth and promise in between the storm clouds,” Wolf notes.

Download the Report