Restaurant patrons are increasingly going out to pasture, “grazing” their way through smaller servings instead of sitting down to longer and more expensive meals in a shift that has eateries rushing to adjust.
Nearly half of diners now say they're snacking twice a day, compared with the quarter who said the same in 2010, according to research group Technomic. More than 6 in 10 customers said that the snacks they bought were impulse purchases.
Snack brands at Stockton, Calif.-based
Convenience store chains have been poaching customers from fast-food competitors, Technomic found this fall.
That growth has dining establishments trying new tactics to keep customers coming – including offering faster, cheaper and more portable and compact food and drink.
Some chains are offering value menus or small nibbles at the bar late at night to cater to younger customers, according to Technomic. Mini-sandwiches, sliders and wraps have gone gourmet to entice foodies who don't want the full-sized version. And with a third of consumers looking for more variety among healthful snacks, food-service operators are even launching better-for-you options.