Cracking into Craveability: Restaurant Foods and Beverages

It is a well-known fact that cravings play an important role in driving foodservice purchases. In fact, Technomic’s Menu Positioning & Occasion Driver Consumer Trend Report found that half of all food consumers purchase away from home is driven by cravings. But what is craveable, and what triggers consumers’ cravings?

While they can be triggered in a variety of ways, the vast majority of consumers (73 percent) say simply thinking about an item they previously enjoyed prompted a craving to eat it again.

However, other sensory receptors, including our nose, eyes and ears, can also drive cravings. More than two-fifths of consumers (43 percent) say their yearning for a food begins with picking up its aroma; more than a third (36 percent) report that pictures of food prompts their desire; and 34 percent respond to advertisements heard and/or seen on radio and television.

Base: 427 respondents aged 18+ who primarily visit restaurants to satisfy a craving at least occasionally.
Source: Menu Positioning & Occasion Driver Consumer Trend Report

Craveable Foods, Flavors and Beverages

In one open-ended question, we asked consumers what foods, flavors and beverages they crave. Consumers often cited indulgent foods, particularly those that are staples of the fast-food segment:

  • Pizza is the most common open-ended response
  • Burgers and fries round out the top three craveable foods mentioned

Some consumers, however, crave items with a healthy positioning, including:

  • Seafood
  • Fish
  • Salad

Ethnic foods also earned high marks, including these options:

  • Mexican cuisine
  • Italian cuisine
  • Indian cuisine
  • Burritos
  • Enchiladas
  • Sushi
  • Tacos

Craveable flavors:

  • By far, chocolate is the most craveable flavor
  • Fruity flavors such as lemon, cherry, blueberry, orange, banana and coconut are also highly desired

A variety of beverages earned craveable status, including:

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Soft drinks
  • Dessert-like beverages
  • Adult (alcohol) beverages

Cracking the craveability code is about much more than taste preferences. Our research for the Menu Positioning & Occasion Driver Consumer Trend Report found links to a number of other psychological factors, including a longing for “comfort,” “indulgence” and more. Knowing what items consumers desire and what drives these cravings can help operators and suppliers effectively position their menu and concept to meet consumers’ needs for craveability.


Anne Mills

Anne Mills is a Consumer Research Manager at Technomic Inc. She works on the firm’s Consumer Trend Reports, a series of more than 25 annual studies that keep U.S., Canadian and U.K. foodservice professionals up to date on the evolving menu and consumer trends in key foodservice areas including: food and beverage categories, restaurant sectors, dining occasions, consumer segments and more.

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