Quick-service Restaurants Winning With Lunchtime Salads: Study

CHICAGO -- Quick-service restaurants have been aggressively improving and promoting their salad offerings, and their efforts appear to be paying off, according to new consumer research from foodservice market research and consulting firm Technomic here.

In its "Salad Category Report," the food consultancy noted that consumers are more likely to consider quick-service ahead of quick-casual restaurants as a viable source for salad, especially at lunch. However, full-service casual-dining operators still dominate all other categories as a top-of-mind resource for salad, the research showed.

"At lunch, consumers are frequently focused on convenience, but still want high quality at a lower price," said Darren Tristano, Technomic Information Services’ e.v.p. "The quick-service players have been highly successful in delivering on that formula."

Tristano added that quick-casual operators may need to put new efforts into promoting their artisan items and creating new signature salad dishes, while also presenting attractive price points, to compete more effectively with QSRs.

The report also noted that ethnic trends are among the most striking in the salad category. For example, Southwest-, Asian-, and Mediterranean-influenced flavors have been displacing previously popular flavors like Cajun and Buffalo seasonings.

Blue and other strong cheeses are becoming increasingly popular at all types of restaurants and across all price points, according to the report.

The "Salad Category Report" includes over 400 pages of detailed reporting on menu, pricing, and unique preparations at more than 250 leading and emerging full- and limited-service chains; in-depth consumer research on purchasing behavior, attitudes and preferences; and extensive individual restaurant profiles and menu contents. It's one component of Technomic's "left-side-of-the-menu" series, which also include soups and appetizers.
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