Up Your Food Game to Recapture Interest

Consumers are beginning to return to restaurants and food retailers. Here’s what they want to see.

March 03, 2021

New Comfort Foods Prepared in Kitchen Foodservice Restaurant

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The coronavirus pandemic has upended many parts of society, including food. While early in the pandemic people began eating more at home, today many are venturing out of the kitchen and back to restaurants and food retailers. “Consumers are a little fatigued with what they’re eating,” said Mark DiDomenico, director of customer success with Datassential, on this week’s episode of Convenience Matters, “What Customers Are Hungry for in 2021.”

Consumers still crave comfort, but with a modern twist. “It’s not just meatloaf and pasta—it’s now things like ramen and pho and more ethnic items,” he said. “Tacos, birthday cake, avocado, those are the kinds of things we’re seeing as modern comfort food evolves.”

The healthy trend continued in 2020 and into 2021. Consumers are still interested in functional foods and plant-based products as well. “We do see an evolution of food trends that do lean a little bit healthier,” DiDomenico said.

As to when things will return to pre-pandemic life, he has a positive outlook. “Barring any other hiccup, I do think it will be a year or two when things will steady,” DiDomenico said. “I don’t think we’ll see these ebbs and flows, but we’ll find a new normal. … especially for the away-from-home activity. Curbside is the new service mode. … C-store operators … can take advantage of that and continue to offer that.”

Listen to the podcast for more insights into where and what people are eating. Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 250 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com. Episodes have been downloaded more than 200,000 times by listeners around the world.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis, including information about how to educate employees about the vaccines and other vaccine-related human resources advice. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.