Menu innovation is key
As restaurant visits are relatively flat (projected to increase by about one per cent per year), restaurants are attempting to steal share from competitors through menu innovation. The NPD Group indicates that 31 per cent of Canadian restaurant consumers look forward to trying new things and that 22 per cent will try a restaurant because of unique menu items. For casino restaurants, this means regular, limited-time-offer menu specials to drive demand to the restaurants. These specials must be communicated to gamers through the loyalty program but also to the public at large to generate destination restaurant demand.
Thanks to travel, the Food Network, etc., consumers are well educated. They, especially the Millennials, demand authenticity in food items. Ethnic foods are increasingly popular; however, they must be authentic as opposed to the Canadianized dishes that were acceptable in the past. Consumers also want to know about a restaurant’s ethics. For casinos, this means preparing food from scratch using local foods and authentic recipes. Many restaurants are communicating their environmental practices, food sourcing and clean ingredient decks and this trend is likely to continue. Casinos need to ensure sound environmental and ethical practices in their foodservice operations and communicate these practices to their clientele and potential clientele.
Technology is changing the way restaurants operate. Restaurants now have mobile apps, ordering kiosks and tablets available to place orders. Technology is being used to attract restaurant customers. Perhaps an app allowing patrons to place an order at a restaurant from the gaming floor combined with a text message when it is time to come to the restaurant to eat would be popular, especially with the key younger demographic. Millennials embrace the introduction of technology to restaurants especially when it provides a convenience and the chance to customize orders, has a loyalty program and provides information on deals and specials.
Another key trend is providing healthier items. In Canada, over half the population is overweight or obese. Time famine means that Canadians eat out more often than in the past. For restaurants, including casino restaurants, healthy options on the menu are required for a significant percentage of the potential market. Where a vegetarian menu option was sufficient 20 years ago, operators today must provide options for a variety of dietary needs.
The three square meals a day that we grew up with is no more. The fastest growing meal periods in restaurants are morning and evening snacks. Consumers, particularly Millennials, want to eat what they want, when they want it and where they want it.
In conclusion, one of the greatest challenge facing casino operators is attracting younger demographics. These consumers, however, desire a different dining experience than their parents (many of whom fit the demographic of the core Canadian gamer). Providing an exciting, authentic, customizable and ethical dining experience will be the key to attracting Millennials to casino restaurants.
About the author:
Jeff Dover is a Principal with fsSTRATEGY, an alliance of senior consultants focusing on business strategy support - research, analysis, innovation and implementation - for the foodservice industry. Their team has extensive consulting experience in foodservice across Canada. They also offer international experience, having worked in the United States, Australia, South America, Africa and Europe. The fsSTRATEGY team is unique in that they provide service to all foodservice sectors (restaurants, attractions, hotels and resorts, gaming establishments and institutions) and all levels of the foodservice supply chain (growers, processors, distributors and operators). For more information, visit www.fsstrategy.com.