Trends & Insights

Blurring Dayparts

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hunger Strikes No Matter When the Clock Does

Foodservice operators keeping a watchful eye on consumer preferences are no doubt expanding – or are considering expanding – both the dayparts in which they operate and their menu offerings as they enter new time territories.

With an uptick in consumer snacking habits, and their evolving tendency to eat their favorite foods whenever they’re desired, the clock doesn’t hold much influence when it comes to mealtime decisions.

Snacking habits are a key driver behind this trend. Technomic reports that snacking is up thanks, in part, to increasingly busy lifestyles and the uptick of smaller households, which lend more flexibility around meal times and sizes.

Even the definition of “snacks” is changing. An increasing number of consumers defines snacks based on when they’re eaten (i.e. outside of traditional dayparts) more so than what the food item is. In fact, 29 percent of consumers report that, compared to two years ago, their definitions of snacks now include more types of food.

Eating snacks to satisfy hunger obliterates 100 percent adherence to traditional mealtime dayparts. Foodservice operators, therefore, would benefit from offering a variety of foods outside of these traditional times to answer the growing demand for snacks.

Overall, consumers demand flexibility when it comes to their eating occasions. In addition to snacks, their taste buds are tuned to small plates, desserts and their ability to eat what they want, when they want it (we’re looking at you, McDonald’s all-day breakfast menu). The rigidity of three, distinct eating dayparts is not compatible to the flexibility that consumers desire.

To capitalize on this, Technomic shares five strategies that foodservice operators should consider implementing:

  • New dayparts
  • Menu expansion
  • Off-premise foodservice
  • Total food strategy
  • Vending

The key, of course, is to find that balance of offering new items or services while remaining true to your brand.

Foodservice outlets should take all dayparts, including new, emerging ones, into consideration as they contemplate expanding their menus or entering the market altogether. Because (with a nod to Bill Haley) consumers aren’t just rocking around the clock, they’re eating around it, too.