Restaurants cannot ignore the growing Hispanic population and the spending power these consumers hold. Understanding the needs and how to reach these consumers is crucial for any foodservice operation. Specific areas of opportunity exist in fast casual that could help entice Hispanic consumers to spend their foodservice dollars in the segment.
Since 2013, Hispanic consumers’ patronage at fast-casual restaurants increased from 56% to 61%, on par with the general population, according to Technomic’s 2015 Hispanic Foodservice Consumer Trend Report. But at a time when fast casual is making waves with consumers and investors alike, nearly a quarter of Hispanic consumers expect to visit fast-casual restaurants less often in the future, versus 18% and 19% of Hispanic consumers who said the same for fast-food and coffee café concepts, respectively.
Expectations don’t necessarily translate into reality—especially when asking consumers to predict their behavior—but the burgeoning U.S. Hispanic population is holding tightly to its foodservice dollars, anticipating that low prices will drive decisions.
But there’s good news for fast casual in the report. Further examination of the factors that influence these consumers are in line with many of the attributes that have given fast casual an edge in the limited-service segment: use of fresh, high-quality ingredients, food that is made to order and a good value.
What is the most important in deciding which foodservice establishment to visit?
Further opportunities exist for fast casuals to highlight specific attributes that appeal to Hispanic consumers. Here are some examples of areas fast-casual restaurants could leverage as a way to differentiate from fast food what they can offer Hispanic customers:
- Service—Hispanic consumers value a high level of interaction with servers, an attribute identified as important and extremely important to 44% of Hispanic consumers at both limited- and full-service restaurants. Interaction with servers in particular is easier for fast-casual restaurants, especially those build-your-own concepts that allow the customer to tell an employee which ingredients they want on their pizza or in their burrito or bowl.
- Availability of adult beverages—one-third of Hispanic consumers want to see adult beverages available at limited-service restaurants, an area of the menu where fast casual has the advantage over fast food. According to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, quick-service restaurants’ adult beverage menus have shrunk by 10% from Q1 2014 to Q1 2015, while fast casuals have increased their adult beverage offerings by 2% over that time.
- Kid (and parent) friendly menus—Hispanics place a high importance on kid-friendly attributes at restaurants and seek out concepts their kids will enjoy. The sleek, modern environment of fast-casual concepts aren’t always the most family friendly, but highlighting offerings on kids’ menus could entice parents, particularly those looking for healthful items. Generations most likely to be raising kids are more insistent on healthful menu items for their children: Seven of 10 Gen Xers and six out of 10 Millennials say healthy menu options for children are important at LSRs and FSRs.