Restaurants pose biggest threat to supermarkets’ prepared foods programs

The biggest challenge for many supermarkets’ prepared foods departments isn’t coming from the center store or the prepared foods departments in competing supermarkets. According to a new report from Chicago-based Datassential, it’s coming from nearby restaurants.

“Supermarket Prepared Foods: Evolution Toward a True Foodservice Model” — which details a survey of more than 2,000 regular supermarket shoppers and 76 prepared foods department operators — reports that 40 percent of operators say nearby restaurants limit the growth of their prepared foods department. And while a majority of shoppers consider supermarket prepared foods to be “excellent” or “good,” one-third of supermarket patrons don’t shop the prepared foods department. Even those who regularly shop the prepared foods department say they “often don’t know what’s available.”

Shoppers want high quality and a greater variety of healthful, interesting offerings in this department, the report explains, and supermarkets could grow their deli and bakery business by emulating restaurant marketing tactics.

“Prepared food departments should almost consider themselves to be separate restaurants,” said Brian Darr, managing director, Datassential. “They are really competing with quick-serve restaurants and fast-casuals in areas like quality and value. Unlike restaurants, supermarket shoppers don’t have a menu that lets them know what’s available.”

On the operator side, 86 percent want to create a more premium perception of their prepared foods with customers. Meanwhile, 83 percent want to improve consumers’ overall perception of food quality so that it’s on par with that of restaurants, the report states.

On the consumer side, 37 percent said they would purchase more prepared foods if coupons or discounts were offered, the report says. And 35 percent said they would be motivated to increase purchasing of prepared foods if could choose from a larger variety of products.

In terms of what would get people to try a new prepared food item, half of consumers said they would do so if they were offered a sample of the product, the report points out. At the same time, 31 percent said they would if a trusted person recommended the product, and 27 percent said they would if the product were offered under short-term pricing.

Other tips the report gives on how to increase sales of prepared foods include:

  • Highlight in-store chefs and make the relationship personal.
  • Offer prepared foods that are time-consuming to make at home, such as roasts, barbecued foods, etc.
  • Menu a standard set of items, but offer rotating specials to increase variety.
  • Highlight bakery items made in the store with special labels or packaging.
  • Create combo meals that include everyday bakery items such as artisan breads and cakes.
  • Remind consumers about how prepared foods save time — in terms of both preparation and the clean-up process.

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