By definition, the word niche doesn’t exactly scream variety. However, recent restaurant trends would suggest otherwise.
When dining out, consumers are spoilt for choice. There is a whole range of eateries available, all with a large selection of food to choose from – it’s like putting a child in a toy shop. No wonder choosing where and what to eat can feel a stressful for some. This is why niche menus have become increasingly popular and are more prevalent in the hospitality industry today. They offer consumers the opportunity to pick a particular food and the variety comes in to play when it can then be served several different ways.
Consumers love variety
This love of variety is supported by research carried out by Preoday in 2018. Asking consumers to identify what they look for in a food venue, it found that a great menu (91%) was of vital importance. Diving deeper, it was revealed that 57% consider variety to be the most appealing aspect of the menu.
Seemingly contrary to this, across the UK’s capital, niche restaurants serving different versions of a single menu item have been growing in popularity. A 2018 Channel 4’s series, Tricks of the Restaurant Trade, told viewers that in 2015, one in ten London restaurants that opened focused on niche items and that this trend has continued. Now curious customers can sample from menus focused purely on the likes of cereal, cheese toasties or potatoes.
Niche – the new way of offering variety
How does this make sense? Well, arguably, it makes a lot of sense if you think of the single-product trend as a creative way of offering variety to diners. While the focus is on one food type, the consumer is offered more interpretations of that food than they could hope for anywhere else.
Take The Potato Project for example, a baked potato business in Soho with the mission of showing that potatoes can pair with something other than baked beans. Items on the menu include Autumn Wild Mushrooms, Spinach, Blue Cheese & Truffle Oil, and Sweet Potato, Malaysian Veg Curry, Sour Cream & Sesame Seeds. Interestingly, next door you’ll find another single food restaurant concept, Meltroom (focus on grilled cheese sandwiches).
The further benefits of niche
The concept of niche menus gives the consumers the variety they want and allows food operators to up their game by sticking to one dish and doing it really well. In many cases, offering a pared-down menu can also help the operator make stock purchasing more efficient. Less diversity on the menu should mean less ingredients needed overall. That affordability can be passed on for the benefit of the customer – after all, customers like attractive pricing.
A simple menu is easier for operators to manage in terms of preparation. With fewer ingredients, there can be greater speed applied to production. For example, The Potato Project can cook the jacket potatoes in bulk while the extras, such as mushrooms or sour cream, can be quickly added afterwards. This means dishes can be turned out at quickly, tables can be served quickly and collection queues kept short. All of things the modern consumer values in their dining experience..
If you manage a food service business and you’re looking for a way to attract fresh custom, why not consider a menu refresh. Focus on your strengths on the menu, identify which of your dishes are the most popular with consumers and could benefit from variations. By simplifying ingredients – while still offering diversity – you could generate cost savings and boost revenue through higher custom turnover. Just remember, if you’re going to offer your food via online or mobile ordering, focus on creating an attractive digital menu, sticking to the rules of menu psychology, to nudge your customers to spend how you want them to.
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