Post Pandemic Retail Foodservice – RDNs Needed
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Although retail foodservice made it through the pandemic better than the rest of the foodservice industry, to remain relevant and successful, this is one area of the store that needs to continually adjust to meet consumer tastes and trends. Technomic Principal Wade Hanson, who specialized in retail foodservice indicates we should see at least a 10.8% increase in retail foodservice growth in 2021, but that percentage could jump even higher by creating the right solutions. Here are some ways that retail RDNs can help their retailer achieve maximum foodservice success:
- Provide Value-Oriented Options – Value has taken on greater importance since the pandemic and supermarkets are typically seen as providing better value than restaurants. Capitalize on this sentiment by offering budget-friendly, nutritious meals for a family of four. Use your menu planning skills to assist your retailer with creating grab-n-go entrees, protein options and side dishes that can be combined to create a meal for a set price.
- Offer Adventurous Cuisine – Although many customers seek out their favorite rotisserie chicken and coleslaw, they also enjoy a culinary surprise every now and then. Suggest some trending food ideas to try and offer to assist with recipes and implementation. A Mediterranean food bar; seasonal family meals with local produce; or a fall chili bar with fresh bakery breads for example.
- Focus on Quality – A sure way to increase your standing with prepared foods is to make sure whatever you offer is of high quality. Soggy vegetables, over-dressed salads and stale sandwiches just won’t cut it. Do an audit of your retail foodservice operation and offerings to see what may need to be improved on. Put together your quality improvement recommendations to present to leadership.
- Include Personalized Options – RDNs know that shoppers like food choices that offer personalization - from a variety of portion sizes, to foods that fit specific health needs or dietary patterns. Use signage to point out options such as vegan, gluten-free or low carb and highlight packages for small households. Also, encourage shoppers to share what they would like to see in your prepared foods department.
- Pay Attention to Safety/Cleanliness – Since the pandemic, consumers are more concerned than ever about food safety. Use your food safety knowledge to help create or supplement training for staff if needed; recommend food bar cleaning routines and educate customers on how to safely handle and store prepared foods that leave your store.
- Make it Visually Appealing –Help your stores merchandise their foodservice products in a way that makes them look appetizing and fresh. Macaroni and Cheese positioned by mashed potatoes, rice and cauliflower certainly don’t draw attention. Suggest ways to add in colorful fruits and veggies, appropriate garnishes, nice serving containers and seasonal props to enhance visual appeal.