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Future of Foodservice: Food and Beverage Menu Trends & Opportunities

Future of Foodservice: Food and Beverage Menu Trends & Opportunities

To grow sales, the restaurant industry must continually adapt to evolving consumer trends. Among the most important trends facing the industry are those associated with healthful eating choices, sustainability and the environment, cultural change and its influence on cuisine innovation, and matching consumers’ menu choice decision making with successful menu promotion strategies.

Future of Foodservice: Food and Beverage Menu Trends & Opportunities helps restaurant industry participants adapt to and plan for these important consumer trends. With respect to each of these themes, drawing from consumer survey results and menu databases, this report identifies what consumers want on the menu and what motivates them to try menu items. It also assesses the degree restaurant menus are adapting to those consumer wants and needs, and presents forward-thinking guidance on how restaurants can continue to shape their menus to meet them. Each section of the report includes an “outlook” summary providing forward guidance. To support our analysis, hundreds of menu examples are woven throughout the report.

More specifically, the report:

  • Identifies what motivates consumers to try a menu entrée. Building from proprietary survey results, we assess the degree various menu motivators influence restaurant goers to try new menu entrées. Themes include price, customization, health presence of vegetables, and seasonal items.
  • Analyzes consumer attitudes toward budgeting, the role fast food plays in budgeting, and draws conclusions about the relationship between budgeting and restaurant use.
  • Trends consumer health & diet attitudes and sustainability/environment attitudes over a 10-year period by demographic.
  • Trends menu prices from 2010 to 2014 for selected beverages and food entrees.
  • Examines menu promotional strategies on the menu and “beyond” the menu.
  • Assesses the degree consumers are influenced by healthful menu messaging & sustainability/environmental messaging when making food ordering decisions. Health analysis is framed by three health concepts: inherent health, diet-related health, and lifestyle.
  • Analyzes the degree restaurants are providing healthful menu items (also framed around inherent health, diet-related health, and lifestyle) and sustainability/environmental menu items. It also compares differences between “all” chain and independent restaurants and top chain restaurants.
  • Presents case studies of major chains’ health positioning and strategies, built from consumer survey analysis. Heath-driven case studies include Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill, Outback Steakhouse, The Cheesecake Factory, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts and Jamba Juice. Sustainability case studies include Dunkin’ Donuts and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
  • Assesses factors driving cultural change, including demographic trends and projections.
  • Gauges consumer interest in 25 cuisine types. In doing so, we examine consumer interest in trying each cuisine at 1) a fast food restaurant that specializes in that cuisine; 2) a mainstream fast food restaurant chain; 3) a mainstream sit-down restaurant chain; and 4) a sit-down restaurant that specializes in that cuisine.
  • Assesses 1) the degree restaurants are categorized as ethnic and non-ethnic (i.e. that serve a particular featured cuisine) and 2) the degree restaurants serve menu items categorized as ethnic and non-ethnic. In doing so, we analyze 25 different cuisine types.
  • Presents a “consumer health report card,” including per capita calorie trending, new menu item calorie trends, obesity trends, and connections between restaurant dining and obesity.


  • Executive Summary
    • Report Scope
    • Report Summary
      • Healthful restaurant choices
      • Trending consumer health & diet attitudes
      • Degree that health influences menu food choices
      • What's on the menu
      • Restaurant case studies: healthfulness
      • Sustainability and the environment
      • Degree that sustainability & sourcing influences menu food choices
      • What's on the menu
      • Restaurant case studies
      • Cuisine innovation and cultural change
      • Consumer interest in ethnic and non-ethnic cuisines
      • Ethnic and non-ethnic cuisine representation on restaurant menus
      • Menu choice incentives & menu promotion strategies
      • Customization trend remains in full swing
      • We want tasty fruits and vegetables. Do you serve any?
      • Navigating menu pricing and promotions
  • Healthful Restaurant Choices
    • Outlook
    • The Consumer's Health Report Card
      • Making health a priority
      • Simple math: weight is tied to calories
      • Long-term calories trend: calorie intake jumps almost 25% over 30 years
      • Near-term trend: calorie intake on the decline
        • Table Caloric Intake by Food Group: Number of Calories, 2010-2012
      • Near-term obesity trends suggest mixed results
      • New menu introductions suggest restaurant chains may be turning a corner
      • Simple math: weight is tied to huge healthcare costs
      • Restaurant industry growth and the obesity connection
      • Frequency of restaurant use correlates with negative diet self-perception
      • Fast food correlation even stronger
      • Eating out and calories: 1 meal out a week
      • Diet and health tied to type of restaurant frequented
      • Trending consumer health & diet attitudes
      • Quick-service restaurants increasingly given "junk food" status
        • Table Consumer Health & Diet Attitudes, Agree a Lot & Any Agree, 2004-2014
      • Women demonstrate definitive views towards health and diet
      • Quick-service restaurants vulnerable to losing female patrons
      • But don't overlook men
        • Table Consumer Health & Diet Attitudes, Agree a Lot, by Gender, 2004 vs. 2014
      • Time pressed rationales related to health and diet skew towards youth
      • Continued need for QSRs to take page from fast casual
        • Table Consumer Health & Diet Attitudes, Agree a Lot, by Age, 2004 vs. 2014
      • Less affluent households are most likely to say they don't have the time to eat healthy
        • Table Consumer Health & Diet Attitudes, Agree a Lot, by HH Income, 2004 vs. 2014
      • Hispanics and blacks agree fast food is all junk
        • Table Consumer Health & Diet Attitudes, Agree a Lot, by Race/Ethnicity, 2004 vs. 2014
      • Less affluent families struggle with finding time to prepare/eat healthy meals
        • Table Consumer Health & Diet Attitudes, Agree a Lot: Married with Children, by HH Income, 2004 vs. 2014
    • Degree that health influences menu food choices
      • Introduction
      • Restaurant health positioning
      • All natural: top health term influencing decisions at fast food restaurants
      • Claim ambiguity provides opportunity
      • Restaurants executing on the claim
      • Diet-related claims at fast food restaurants
      • Drawing the line on calories and fat
      • Locally grown: top health term influencing decisions for special occasion
      • Restaurants executing on the claim
      • Weighing low-/no- and inherent health
      • On-the-go at quick-service restaurants: inherent health
        • Table Inherently Healthy Menu Terms: Degree of Influence on Food Choice When On-the-Go at Fast Food Restaurant, by Demographic, 2014
      • On-the-go at quick-service restaurants: diet-related claims
        • Table Low-/No- Healthy Menu Terms: Degree of Influence on Food Choice When On-the-Go at Fast Food Restaurant, Part I, by Demographic, 2014
      • Generational differences
        • Table Low-/No- Healthy Menu Terms: Degree of Influence on Food Choice When On-the-Go at Fast Food Restaurant, Part II, by Demographic, 2014
      • On-the-go at quick-service restaurants: Lifestyle terms
        • Table Vegan and Vegetarian Menu Terms: Degree of Influence on Food Choice When On-the-Go at Fast Food Restaurant, by Demographic, 2014
    • What's on the menu
      • Table Percent of Restaurants Serving Healthy Menu Items, by Menu Item Term, 2014
      • Inherently healthy menu items
      • The wide view: chains and independents
        • Table Percent of Restaurants Serving Inherently Healthy Menu Items, by Restaurant Segment & Menu Item Term, 2010-2014
      • The narrow view: top chains
        • Table Percent of Top Restaurant Chains Serving Inherently Healthy Menu Items, by Restaurant Segment & Menu Item Term, 2010-2014
      • Diet-related "low-/no-" menu items
      • The wide view: chains and independents
        • Table Percent of Restaurants Serving Low-/No- Healthy Menu Items, by Restaurant Segment & Menu Item Term, 2010-2014
      • The narrow view: top chains focus on low/no- fat
        • Table Percent of Top Restaurant Chains Serving Low-/No- Healthy Menu Items, by Restaurant Segment & Menu Item Term, 2010-2014
    • Restaurant case studies: healthfulness
      • Full-service restaurants
        • Table Applebee's Neighborhood Grill: Consumers Who Visit & Visit Most, by Demographic, 2014
        • Table Consumers Who Visit Applebee's Neighborhood Grill Most: Health & Diet, Inherent Health, Calorie Attitudes: Any Agree/Strongly Agree, 2014
      • Outback Steakhouse
        • Table Outback Steakhouse: Consumers Who Visit & Visit Most, by Demographic, 2014
        • Table Consumers Who Visit Outback Steakhouse Most: Health & Diet, Inherent Health, Calorie Attitudes: Any Agree/Strongly Agree, 2014
      • The Cheesecake Factory
        • Table The Cheesecake Factory: Consumers Who Visit & Visit Most, by Demographic, 2014
        • Table Consumers Who Visit The Cheesecake Factory Most: Health & Diet, Inherent Health, Calorie Attitudes: Any Agree/Strongly Agree, 2014
      • Limited-service restaurants
        • Table Chick-fil-A: Consumers Who Visit & Visit Most, by Demographic, 2014
        • Table Consumers Who Visit Chick-fil-A Most: Health & Diet, Inherent Health, Calorie Attitudes: Any Agree/Strongly Agree, 2014
      • Dunkin' Donuts
        • Table Dunkin' Donuts: Consumers Who Visit & Visit Most, by Demographic, 2014
        • Table Consumers Who Visit Dunkin' Donuts Most: Health & Diet, Inherent Health, Calorie Attitudes: Any Agree/Strongly Agree, 2014
      • Jamba Juice
        • Table Jamba Juice: Consumers Who Visit, by Demographic, 2014
        • Table Consumers Who Visit Jamba Juice Most: Health & Diet, Inherent Health, Calorie Attitudes: Any Agree/Strongly Agree, 2014
  • Sustainability and the Environment
    • Outlook
    • Sustainability a mainstream issue
      • Trending consumer sustainability attitudes
        • Table Consumer Environmental Attitudes, Agree a Lot & Any Agree, 2004-2014
    • Degree that sustainability & sourcing influences menu food choices
      • Introduction
      • Green movement gives rise to sustainability and food sourcing of menu items
      • Looking local
      • Taking it a step farther: site-grown produce
      • Sustainability terms influencing menu decisions
    • What's on the menu
      • The wide view: chains and independents
        • Table Percent of Restaurants Serving Sustainable and Sourced Menu Items, by Restaurant Segment & Menu Item Term, 2010-2014
      • The narrow view: top chains
        • Table Percent of Top Restaurant Chains Serving Sustainable and Sourced Menu Items, by Restaurant Segment & Menu Item Term, 2010-2014
      • Cause marketing enhances green position
    • Restaurant case studies: sustainability and the environment
      • Chipotle Mexican Grill
      • Competitive differentiation: food culture
      • Embodied in a menu manifesto
      • Targeting vegans
      • Beyond the menu
      • Meeting customer
        • Table Chipotle Mexican Grill: Consumers Who Visit & Visit Most, by Demographic, 2014
      • Health-forward
        • Table Consumers Who Visit Chipotle Mexican Grill Most: Health & Diet, Inherent Health, Calorie Attitudes: Any Agree/Strongly Agree, 2014
      • Not environmental zealots
        • Table Consumers Who Visit Chipotle Mexican Grill Most: Sustainability Attitudes: Any Agree/Strongly Agree, 2014
      • Dunkin' Donuts
      • Competitive differentiation: coffee-driven convenience and speed of service
        • Table Dunkin' Donuts: Consumers Who Visit & Visit Most, by Demographic, 2014
      • An enviro-friendly user base
      • Catered to with recent beverage introductions
      • But wider sustainability initiatives still a couple of years away
        • Table Consumers Who Visit Dunkin' Donuts Most: Sustainability Attitudes: Any Agree/Strongly Agree, 2014
  • Cuisine Innovation and Cultural Change
    • Outlook
    • Driving cultural change
      • An increasingly Hispanic America has generational implications
      • Making household income gains-but not at all income levels
        • Table Hispanic Mean Household Income as Percentage of U.S. Mean Household Income, by Income Quintile, 1994-2013
      • An increasingly empowered female America gives women greater choice
      • But rosy trends belie continued income gap
        • Table Mean Income Earned by Women as Percentage Earned by Men, 1994-2013
      • Advanced schooling to the rescue
        • Table Postsecondary Degrees Conferred, by Type and by Gender, 2007-2008 to 2016-2017
      • An aging America tilts population further toward 65+s
    • Consumer interest in ethnic and non-ethnic cuisines
      • Introduction
      • At restaurant cuisine specialist versus mainstream chain
        • Table Consumer Interest in Specific Cuisines: Quick-Service Restaurants and Full-Service Restaurants that Specialize in Cuisine vs. Mainstream Chains, 2014
      • Degree of interest: quick-service versus full-service restaurants
        • Table Consumer Interest in Specific Cuisines: Quick-Service Restaurants and Full-Service Restaurants that Specialize in Cuisine vs. Mainstream Chains, Indexed, 2014
    • Interest in ethnic & non-ethnic cuisine: demographic analysis
      • Women are more willing to try a variety of ethnic cuisines
        • Table Consumer Interest in Specific Cuisines: Quick-Service Restaurants and Full-Service Restaurants that Specialize in Cuisine vs. Mainstream Chains, by Gender, 2014
      • Young generations show diverse interest in ethnic cuisine
        • Table Consumer Interest in Specific Cuisines: Quick-Service Restaurants that Specialize in Cuisine vs. Mainstream Chains, by Gender, 2014
      • Consumers remain interested in cuisines that embody their cultural roots
        • Table Consumer Interest in Specific Cuisines: Quick-Service Restaurants that Specialize in Cuisine vs. Mainstream Chains, by Gender, 2014
    • What's on the menu
      • Ethnic and non-ethnic cuisine representation on restaurant menus
      • Availability of ethnic and non-ethnic cuisine restaurants is fairly balanced
        • Table Percent of Restaurants Serving Cuisine & Percent of Dishes Featuring Cuisine, by Cuisine Type: All Restaurants vs. Chain Restaurants, 2014
      • The wide view: chains and independent ethnic cuisine cross-pollination trends
        • Table Percent of Restaurants Serving Cuisine & Percent of Dishes Featuring Cuisine, by Cuisine Type: All Restaurants vs. Chain Restaurants, 2014
      • The narrow view: top chain ethnic cuisine cross-pollination trends
      • Mexican on chain menus
        • Table Percent of Top Chain Restaurants Serving Mexican Cuisine, by Restaurant Cuisine Type, 2014
      • Mediterranean on chain menus
        • Table Percent of Top Chain Restaurants Serving Mediterranean Cuisine, by Restaurant Cuisine Type, 2014
      • Southwest on chain menus
        • Table Percent of Top Chain Restaurants Serving Southwest Cuisine, by Restaurant Cuisine Type, 2014
      • Thai on chain menus
        • Table Percent of Top Chain Restaurants Serving Thai Cuisine, by Restaurant Cuisine Type, 2014
  • Menu Choice Incentives & Menu Promotion Strategies
    • Outlook
    • New menu motivation: fast food and full service restaurants
      • Pricing pressure still quite relevant
      • Customization trends maintains steam
      • Health is a factor
      • Quick-service restaurants
      • Full-service restaurants
      • Age
        • Table Menu Entrée Motivators: Quick-Service Restaurants vs. Full-Service Restaurants, by Age, 2014
      • Race/ethnicity
        • Table Menu Entrée Motivators: Quick-Service Restaurants vs. Full-Service Restaurants, by Race/Ethnicity, 2014
    • Prioritizing the budget
      • Table Percent of Consumers Who Identify Budgeting as Top Priority, 2014
      • Role of fast food in budgeting
        • Table Eating Fast Food Helps Me Stay in My Budget: Agree a Lot & Any Agree, By Demographic, 2014
      • If fast food is in the plan, it's used more often
        • Table Eating Fast Food Helps Me Stay in My Budget: Agree a Lot & Any Agree, By Monthly Frequency of Fast Food Restaurant Use, 2014
    • Menu pricing trends
      • Pricing trends over time
        • Table Iced Tea & Iced Coffee Price and Price Change, by Restaurant Segment, 2010-2014
        • Table Burger & Chicken Sandwich Price and Price Change, by Restaurant Segment, 2010-2014
    • Menu promotional strategies
      • Menu strategy: price
      • Quick-service snacking and value menus
      • Full-service meal deals
      • Menu strategy: Beyond the core menu
      • The beverage menu
      • The kids' menu
      • Late night menu
  • Appendix
    • Methodology
      • Consumer survey methodology
    • Report table interpretation
      • Color coding
      • Indexing
    • Terms and definitions
      • Supermarkets
      • Restaurant categories
      • Limited-service restaurant definitions
      • Full-service restaurant definitions
      • Other definitions

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