Snacks, the new “meal” restaurants are serving up

Posted by Josette Dunn on 17th May 2010

Recent research from Mintel Menu Insights found that snacking is the new way to order at restaurants. Menu items that contain the descriptors “snack,” “snackable,” or “snacker” have increased by a staggering 170% since 2007 and growth is expected to carry on as restaurants continue to explore this new trend.”Snacks are providing a huge opportunity right now for restaurants ranging from quick service to fine dining,” notes Eric Giandelone, director of foodservice research at Mintel. “By innovating menus with various snacking options, restaurants can boost sales throughout the day and drive guest traffic during non-peak hours.”

Consumers are more likely to visit restaurants in the early and late afternoon for snacks, the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. time slot being most popular with 37% of Mintel’s respondents. Spending, however, peaks in the early evening. Only 19% of respondents purchased snacks from a restaurant between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., but the average amount spent is $4.26 per person versus only $3.79 across all other time periods.

“Snack options need to be appropriate for the time frame,” adds Eric Giandelone. “Heartier and pricier fare may have more appeal later in the day, while light options may work best in the morning or early afternoon.”

The majority of snackers (64%) look for a beverage when snacking, whereas 61% opt for something portable. Meanwhile, just over half (52%) crave an indulgent snack and 50% want something salty to nibble on. Only 32% of snackers choose a healthy option, which counteracts the health conscious trend that is being seen in the restaurant industry.