Operators of supermarket delis, bakeries, and prepared-food areas recently have found a recipe for success: Two out of every three surveyed for Datassential’s Supermarket Prepared Keynote Report said their foodservice sales increased in the past year.
Consumer ratings back up those claims. Nearly half of about 2,000 survey respondents said the quality and variety of the prepared foods and beverages at their favorite grocery stores had improved recently.
Consumers are most likely to visit the fresh bakery and deli counter every time they shop for groceries, but they habitually opt for the salad bar or prepared beverages less often. Prepared departments are largely meeting demand for consumer needs like local produce and meats, fresh-baked bread, specialty coffees, and fresh-made soup.
Operators reporting recent sales increases pointed to several reasons for that growth. A majority (55%) said improved menu options contributed to their sales growth, followed by 42% who cited improved customer service. One operator in three said expanded marketing and promotions inside the store, which could include everything from signage to special events, also drove sales increases.
Three consumers in five say they’re satisfied with the prepared-food options at their local supermarket. That’s good for the grocery industry as a whole, because 84% of shoppers say the quality and variety in the bakery, deli, and other foodservice stations matter to them when they’re deciding where to shop for groceries.
Prepared departments have the potential to draw shoppers in from their supermarket’s proliferating competition, which more than ever include venues like club stores, discount supercenters, or convenience stores.
Most grocery shoppers are interested in limited-time offers from the prepared-food department, and LTOs can be a way to add even more variety to the menu without getting rid of customer favorites such as rotisserie chicken. Supermarkets could and should prioritize the following areas of intense consumer interest: customizable hot pizza, smoked meats and store-made barbecue, customizable burritos, and pasta and stir-fry stations.
Stores could also explore adding carving stations, juice bars, or fresh-popped popcorn, all of which have relatively high levels of shopper interest.
Nearly three-quarters of consumers are interested in having prepared foods and beverages delivered to their homes, either by supermarket staff or via some third party like Postmates or Shipt.
For now, however, most consumers are more likely to pick up their groceries and prepared foods at the store. This means that, to increase traffic and sales, a prepared department doesn’t need to change underlying consumer habits. It just needs to stand out in the consideration set as a place to sit and eat (a restaurant alternative) or to conveniently pick up a shopper’s favorite meal (a takeout alternative).
Supermarkets should make those adjustments and investments now to maintain momentum. After all, fortune favors the prepared.