From the Editor: Planning for the holidays and beyond
Colleen CrossNews Business and Operations Marketing
As you enter the festive season, with production in full swing, showcases bursting with eye-catching scented delights and optimism high, we know behind it all there is concern.
It’s a perfect storm for dine-in pizzerias and restaurants at the moment.
A rough economy is discouraging folks from visiting their favourite eateries. And when they do venture out, higher menu prices – necessitated by high labour, ingredient and rent costs for operators – are conspiring to dampen their experience.
The Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie surveyed 5,521 Canadians to gauge their perspectives on the food-service industry and how food inflation is affecting their views.
Here are some highlights from the study:
- 80% of respondents acknowledging that higher menu prices have influenced their dining-out choices.
- 88% of Canadians have said they are dining out less due to higher overall food prices compared to a year ago.
- 77% of Canadians now predominantly opt for more affordable dining establishments due to the price hikes.
- 29% of respondents expressed being either very satisfied or satisfied with their restaurant experiences based on the money they spent.
- 68% of Canadians have observed that portion sizes at restaurants have notably decreased compared to a year ago, a phenomenon known as “shrinkflation” within the food-service industry.
Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, remarked on the survey findings: “The current level of satisfaction expressed by Canadians who visit restaurants is alarmingly low. Expectations have clearly changed. This survey underscores the profound impact that rising menu prices and food inflation are having on Canadian consumers’ dining habits. It’s a wake-up call for the entire restaurant industry, signalling the need for innovative strategies to adapt to these changing consumer preferences and economic challenges.”
The last thing we want to do is put a damper on your holiday spirit. But you should be aware of some of these findings as they may help your planning for 2024.
The report gives us a lot to think about. For example, it confirms that customers notice “Shrinkflation” and they don’t appreciate it. We know because we’ve all seen it happen on grocery store shelves. Your customers and clients come to you for your high-quality pizzas, calzone and pasta and will surely notice any reduction in quality.
If there’s a compromise to be made, it’s better to reduce the number of products – focusing on certain bestselling items – or number of hours you are open rather than reduce the size or quality of your signature pizzas, calzones, sandwiches, breads or pastas.
The report also notes that more than three-quarters of Canadians prefer establishments that offer discounts, rebates and loyalty programs. You may want to consider using such a program to draw in customers and keep them coming back.
As makers of high-quality pizza with deep knowledge and training providing specialized products, you have a built-in advantage for those ready to indulge without looking too closely at prices. But it’s still an experience to be savoured and people still expect value for money.
Raising prices is tricky but necessary for businesses with such tight margins. While it’s important for you to be aware of what’s happening overall in food service, it’s also important to stand behind the quality and work that goes into your one-of-a-kind products. Loyal customers want to support your business and clear, regular communication can go a long way in keeping them motivated to visit and promote your business by word of mouth.
Wishing you a productive season and a bright, stable 2024 full of promise.
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