Apparently healthier eating trends or simple shifts in menu ingredients at food franchises can arguably stem from a variety of initial causes. This year’s shift may be considered healthier or simply focused on alternatives that are lower cost for restaurant operators and consumers. With commodities increasing in cost due to last year’s drought season, the effects will hit gradually, months to years from the actual season itself. What does this mean for quick service restaurants and food franchise operators in general?
Creative thinking is always beneficial when it comes to managing a business, and when cost increases are on the horizon, creativity is even more advantageous for those businesses who must consider ways to manage higher costs alongside satisfying customers. This is the greatest form of adaptation during adversity. Within the first few months of 2013 menu options in a large majority of food chains have increasingly meat-free and alternative meat comprised burger meal options, which happens to be one of the most popular meal items in the U.S. to face an increase in cost. With the segments of the animal agriculture industry heavily affected, from pig, cow and chicken based farming, any primary and secondary products from these animals may be affected, including dairy products and eggs.
Customers seeking a delicious burger at their favorite local eatery may find worthy alternatives, even where previously unconsidered. These include fish and seafood patties, including varieties like shrimp and salmon patties or other fish patties such as tuna, bean and nut burger versions, such as mixes of various legumes and vegetables or nuts seasoned together in patty form, as well as vegetable based burger options. Burger alternatives may even offer certain grains such as quinoa or rice mixed with legumes, and a variety of seasoning options to heighten flavor. Alternative turkey burgers are hitting many menus as well, along with more chicken burgers, though cost increases for meat based burgers affected by the drought may increase over time as the effect of the drought becomes clearer.
From January to March 2013, hikes in alternative options from the same period during the previous year hit 60% for chicken, 25% for turkey, and seafood and vegetarian burger options increasing by between 8% and 10%. Some of these options hitting restaurant grills, quick service restaurants, and fine dining locations offer a variety of flavors which many consumers may find pleasing in lieu of a costlier traditional burger. Alternative meats also have become increasingly varied, from bison, ostrich, kangaroo, and lamb. Nevertheless some of the more traditional meat items are most commonly seen on menus across the U.S. though creative menu additions are catching on.
For the sake of menu stability, longer term contracts with suppliers obviously means fewer headaches. Some suppliers are decreasing the length of contracts to compensate for their own decreased supply when necessary. Franchise owners and operators of small businesses may find either scenario is possible with certain suppliers, yet creative thinking and researching alternative supply may be in order. Depending on the scale of the operation, altering how food items are created, varying ingredients and trying new flavors, as well as sourcing with alternative suppliers can alleviate some of the strain going forward.