U.S. restaurants fight for share of dinner market

Published on
June 26, 2012

While U.S. supermarkets are competing better on meal solutions offerings — including seafood entrées — restaurants are battling to gain more share of the family dinner market.

Compared to restaurant chains, retailers are competing better against restaurants by offering more ethnic food choices, including Indian, Thai, Korean, and Greek, according to the new Retail Meal Solutions Segment Study from Chicago-based foodservice consulting firm Technomic. Retailers are also offering more adventurous spices and seasonings, creating unique flavor profiles for seafood and other proteins. 

Additionally, prepared meals featuring seafood have become more commonplace at grocery stores.

“Crab cakes, for example, have become relatively common as have seafood-based soups. Raw preparations such as poke and sashimi are featured at Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Fresh & Easy and other chains,” said Wade Hanson, director of research and consulting for Technomic. 

Supermarkets featuring new and different seafood meal solutions include Central Market, which offers Blackened Tilapia Tacos; Fresh Market, which sells Tequila Mango Shrimp; Hannaford Bros., which has a Salmon and Jasmine Rice dish; and Hills Market, which features Crab Cakes with Sherry-Cayenne Dipping Sauce. 

With a difficult economic climate in the United States in recent years, restaurants have seen their guests turn to supermarkets for meal solutions, according to Ron Paul, president of Technomic. However, “some restaurant chains are aggressively challenging retailers on price,” he said. 

“Most major restaurant chains are offering both takeout offerings and competitive meal deals. [Seafood] chains from Red Lobster to Joe’s Crab Shack to Bonefish Grill have offered some form of dinner for two, dinner for four, a four-course special, or other meal deals,” said Hanson.

In addition, mainstream restaurant chains are also competing with meal deals for families. For example, Mimi’s Café recently rolled out a “Family Meals to Go” menu, featuring 10 meal options serving four or five people for USD 24.99. Additionally, Bob Evans’ “10 under USD 20 Family Meals to Go” includes an entrée, a large side, and bread for three to four diners, available for takeout only.

Contributing Editor

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