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Room for growth: Marketing to business diners and delivery

Fewer than one quarter of restaurant operators market directly to business diners

Fewer than one quarter of restaurant operators market directly to business diners, though those customers tend to spend a bit more on average than consumers who are dining out for reasons other than business. 

So indicates a recent survey of Restaurant Hospitality and Nation’s Restaurant News subscribers, conducted in partnership with business dining marketing specialist Dinova Inc. and Penton Research, the research arm of Penton, parent to both Restaurant Hospitality and Nation’s Restaurant News. 

Four out of 10 respondents said business diners tend to spend more, but only 24 percent said they market directly to those business diners, presenting an opportunity for restaurant operators. 

Respondents said they see most of their business diners at lunch (86 percent) but about half of their corporate dining is seen at dinner (50 percent), with 19 percent coming at breakfast and 7 percent at brunch. 

At the same time, 43 percent of respondents in the survey said they have increased their marketing focus on catering, and 46 percent said catering sales have grown over the past year — though most (48 percent) said catering sales were about the same. 


Delivery and digital sales offer another opportunity for growth. 

The survey revealed that 29 percent of respondents offer delivery and 28 percent offer online ordering. 

Twenty three percent said they use a third-party digital service for delivery, and GrubHub was the most often used (31 percent), with UberEats not far behind (28 percent).

Tuna, but not tuna

The world of plant-based products that imitate meat is growing, so why shouldn’t that extend to the imitation of fish?

Meet Ahimi, a plant-based alternative to raw tuna created by New York-based Ocean Hugger Foods Inc.

It’s made from tomatoes with various umami-rich ingredients designed to give it the taste and bite of ahi tuna.

Starting in November, Ahimi will appear at sushi venues at Whole Foods Markets in Los Angeles and New York, with an Ahimi Nigiri and roll combo, along with an Ahimi California roll, according to the grocer.

Ahimi is also on the menu at the fast-casual chain Fresh & Co. in New York, where it appears “poke style” in a Yuzu Bowl with mango, red onions, cucumbers, cashews and hijiki with yuzu sauce over quinoa or brown rice; and in an Aloha Salad with charred pineapple, hijiki, toasted cashews, cucumbers, grapefruit, pickled onion, kale and romaine with a wafu vinaigrette.

Ocean Hugger CEO David Benzaquen said it will soon be served at the corporate cafes of tech companies like Google and Twitter.

And more plant-based seafood products are coming from Ocean Hugger soon, including an eggplant-based unagi, or eel, and a carrot-based salmon — both raw and smoked. 

Restaurant visits decline in U.S. for June-ended quarter

Visits to restaurants grew in every major market across the world for the quarter ended in June — except the U.S., research firm The NPD Group reported.

Total visits to U.S. restaurants and foodservice outlets declined by 1 percent, or a loss of about 94.5 million visits, during the quarter compared to a year ago. That’s according to NPD’s CREST tracking service, which follows visits in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia, Spain and the United States.

Globally, most of that growth came from quick-service restaurants. But a driver was also delivery service, along with mobile ordering and payment. In all the markets tracked, virtually all of the growth in the past couple years has come from mobile or internet services, NPD said.

Breakfast visits are growing broadly, but is still a relatively small daypart. Lunch traffic increased in Brazil, China, Russia and Spain, but declined elsewhere. Dinner visits were flat or up in most countries, with the exception of Australia, Canada and the U.S.


Tzatziki: The Undiscovered Condiment

As American diners embrace Mediterranean cuisine, tzatziki is emerging as condiment with a more healthful profile.

Of Greek origin, versions of tzatziki can be found across Europe and the Mediterranean region, according to Datassential. Traditionally, it involves fresh cucumbers that are salted and left to sit to draw out water before being mixed with creamy Greek yogurt. It’s most often served with gyros and grilled meats.

Restaurant operators, however, are using it to spice up burgers, fish or potatoes. Added flavors like carrots or beets can be leveraged to offer color, nutrition and flavor, and the sauce can be thinned with cream or stock for added versatility.

  • At Barton G in Miami, the Blooming Sea Bass is baked en papillote and served with melted tomato, leek, marble potatoes and a tangelo-tzatziki cream.
  • At Zahav in Philadelphia, tzatziki accompanies the grilled branzino, along with harissa.
  • Tzatziki is a key component of the build-your-meal options at the growing fast-casual Verts Mediterranean Grill and Cava Grill concepts

Sustainability matters

Restaurants are getting serious about sustainability.

A recent survey by Los Angeles-based accounting firm Green Hasson Janks found that 77 percent of food-and-beverage respondents said they have changed or added products based on consumer sustainability concerns. Strategies included waste reduction, supplier standards and accountability measures, ingredient sourcing, employee health-and-wellness programs and water conservation.


Upping the spice

As U.S. consumers continue on their path toward more adventurous eating, curries and hot peppers are appearing more on restaurant menus, according to market research firm The NPD Group.

In dollars, total spices and seasonings shipped from broadline distributors to restaurants and other foodservice outlets for the year ending in March increased 7 percent, NPD said. Among the top spices were curries like tikka masala and yellow curry, which grew by 11 percent, and chili peppers, like Aleppo and habanero, which grew by 12 percent.

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