For restaurants seeking to gain a competitive advantage, catering to the explosion of customers who are becoming conscious of what they are eating is a great way forward. With new wearable technology and the rapidly growing trend of tracking of personal health, consumers are begging the restaurant industry for meal data.
Millennials are a great example. As stated in a previous RMagazine article, they go out to dinner more often than their predecessors ever did, and as a result, their buying power is rapidly outgrowing other demographics. Information has become such a cornerstone in millennial’s lives resulting in the rise of the most informed customers in history. They have begun to expect restaurants to provide them with detailed information about their meals.
Millennials find tremendous value in digital health technologies that focus on personalization and can satisfy some of their needs with fitness apps, but the restaurant industry is severely lacking in this area. In extreme cases, people who are seriously dedicated to their health and fitness completely avoid eating out because of the unknowns.
In total, a 2014 poll found that 60% of American adults say that they restrict at least one nutritional component from their diet. If they don’t have the information on that component, they just won’t eat out. That is almost 7 million more Americans than found in the same poll three years earlier in 2011 so we can estimate that number to be much higher in 2017.
Nutrition facts are the future of the restaurant industry.
In 2016, FARE estimated that food allergies affects 15 million Americans. These people influence their network of family and friends to dine out only where they feel comfortable. One person with a food allergy will impact where their family and friends choose dine out. With the average family size of 2.58, this conservatively brings the market to 30-40 million.
Surveys by FARE found that when food allergy families find an establishment that they trust, they become loyal customers and promote it to their network. These people will only have one or two restaurants in their roster because it is so difficult for them to find restaurants willing to cater to them. Research has shown that 92% will become frequent returning customers if their first visit is positive.
Award winning chef and food allergy advocate, Ming Tsai said in 2014, “There’s no better way to build loyalty than through customers with food allergies. There are 14 million people with food allergies in this country. They’re the ones making dining decisions. Can you imagine if a guest feels safe and has a great meal? You’ve won a customer for life.”
From 1997-2011, a study by the CDC found that food allergies in children increased by 50%. Disney had the insight to start moving their restaurants to a food allergy safe direction in 2005. That year they served 52,000 “special dietary meals”. Four years later in 2009 Disney served 330,000 “special dietary meals” and in 2014 that number rose to over 700,000.
Disney has become highly trusted in the food allergy community. I’ve read personal accounts of families who have traveled to Disney, stayed in their hotels, went to their parks, and spent thousands of dollars just so their food allergic child could experience what it was like to safely eat in a restaurant for the first time. That’s the power of catering to this community.
Blue Ginger (owned by Ming Tsai) reported a 15%-20% increase in sales due to allergen awareness protocols. Not Your Average Joe’s chain reported a 10% increase in sales due to focus on allergen awareness.
AllergyEats reports that a conservative estimate of 10% more sales from becoming food allergy aware in a restaurant that generates $2M in sales per year with an 18% operating profit margin can increase their profit by $75,000 with as little as a $500 investment.
Food allergies are the future of the restaurant industry.
On December 1st, 2016, it became law in the US for restaurants with 20 or more locations to provide the nutrition information to their customers upon request.
In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, restaurants are required to have on staff, someone who has completed a certified food allergy awareness training course. Other states like Maryland, Michigan, and Virginia along with some cities like NYC have various laws about restaurants serving guests with food allergies
In the UK all restaurants must disclose if any of their menu items contain any of the top 14 allergens which are: dairy, egg, soy, fish, shellfish, wheat, peanut, tree nut, celery, gluten, lupin, mustard, sesame, and sulfites.
The Spreadsheet Problem
In many of the big chains, nutrition and allergen information is available but it exists only in spreadsheet form. If you’ve ever been burdened by looking through theses spreadsheets while also having one or more dietary restrictions, you’ll know that it’s ridiculous to display the data in this way when all your customers have a smartphone in their pocket.
Your customers know their own needs and shouldn’t have to waste their time and your staff’s time discussing which meals are available for them to eat. On the other hand, restaurants have the data of what’s in their menu items, all that’s needed is a dynamic bridge between the two.
We at DineSafe believe we’ve built that bridge. We’ve built a platform for restaurants to provide their customers personalized menus based on their dietary restrictions and it’s 100% free for both parties. Your customers will instantly know what they can eat when they walk in the door. In the future, DineSafe will open a real-time analytics window into your restaurant’s immediate community allowing you formulate your meals based on specific nutrition and allergen data.
David Richard is a self taught software developer who is a millennial himself and co-founder of DineSafe App, a platform that connects restaurants with people who want or need to know what’s in their food, using smart menus. David is heading the development of the app and website.
Feel free to reach out, we love to speak with any restaurants who share this vision of the future. http://dinesafeapp.com