A sore subject in present times, the economy has managed to spare the foodservice industry. A 2002 study recently released by Technomic Inc. (Chicago), a foodservice consultancy firm, has shown that despite a sluggish economy and fears about an imminent war, the top 100 leading chains managed to grow 4.7% last year (individual results varied).

As a country, our dining patterns have changed. While Baby Boomers grew up eating a solid three meals a day (and no snacking in between), today's young persons (Generation Y) “graze” all day. This constant eating has contributed to the increasingly overweight American, and made a success of retailers who tapped into the trend.

A genius at innovation and marketing, Starbuck's (Seattle), led the pack of Technomic's 10 fast-growing chains with sales over $200 million, with about $2.9 billion. The chain averages 22 million visitors weekly (according to USA Today) and has convinced many that a latté and biscotti replace breakfast. Yet, when it tried to offer actual meals via its Café Starbucks concept, customers were not interested. Four units test-marketed in the Seattle area have been shuttered. Undaunted, the company is testing Breakfast Savories, egg and cheese rolled into a pastry, in its hometown, and they will be rolled out at the national level if successful.

Consumer desire for fast, portable, tasty foods also was reflected in the success of other chains on the list. The prolific giant was followed by Panera Bread/St. Louis Bread Co. (St. Louis) with $755 million in sales, Krispy Kreme (Winston-Salem, N.C.) with $622 million and Quizno's Classic Subs (Denver) with $615 million (as estimated by Technomic Inc.). Keeping in line with the current economic climate, market observers have seen a rise in sandwiches, appetizers and desserts. It is better to have a small treat than no treat at all.

Starbuck's again took the lead in the category of major chains with over $1 billion in sales in 2002, and was followed by five other chains who also experienced double-digit growth last year. They were: Ruby Tuesday (Knoxville, Tenn.) with 17%, Subway (Milford, Conn.) with 16%, Chili's (Dallas) with 13%, Golden Corral (Raleigh, N. C.) with 12% and Sonic (Oklahoma City) with 11%. (This chart appears in “Abstracts,” on p. 117.)

Industry experts agree eating out is a permanent part of American culture. In many cases, Americans no longer see cooking as an option. As competitive as the foodservice industry is, it is vital that operators understand and cater to the needs of their customers.

For more information about the report, contact Technomic Inc., Chris Urban, 312-876-0004, ext. 229, curban@technomic.com.

Internet Information

Pops at the Top
www.infores.com/public/us/prodserv/default.htm — Information Resources' U.S. site
www.PreparedFoods.com/archives/2002/2002_5/0502top10.htm — Prepared Foods' top successful new products

An Air of Fresh Breath
www.altoids.com — Altoids Why Targeting Women is Key
www.iddba.org — International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association
www.npd.com — NPD Group

Speaking Out on Functional Foods
www.PreparedFoods.com/archives/2002/2002_1/0102development.htm — 2003 R&D Investment Survey on functional foods and nutraceuticals
www.PreparedFoods.com/archives/2001/2001_11/1101coverstory.htm — Prepared Foods' 2003 R&D Investment Survey Part I on functional foods and nutraceuticals

Building Safety into New Products
www.fsis.usda.gov — USDA's Food Safety And Inspection Service searchable website with topics ranging from biosecurity to HACCP
http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/haccp.html — FDA's educational website on HACCP with particular focus on juice and seafood

Ingredients That Gel
www.leatherheadfood.com — Leatherhead Food International
http://food.oregonstate.edu/gums/— Oregon State University site on gums including links

Ingredients in Use: Dietary Fiber
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2253004.stm — World's obesity problem
www.md-phc.com/fiber/indexfib.html — Unicity commercial site with much information on dietary fiber