Americans love to eat out, and yet our new report, Modern Approaches to Eating, details how restaurant offerings present challenges to individual eating approaches and food sourcing. A newly launched Hartman study Food Sourcing in America 2022, examines consumer needs in the foodservice space among many topics.

Diverse Friends Hanging Out Drinking

As we find in our latest report, Modern Approaches to Eating, with all the issues relating to managing a healthy weight (45% of consumers today say they are trying to lose weight), many consumers believe that unchecked indulgence in “treats, high-calorie beverages, and restaurant food” is most often the culprit when they feel their diet has worsened. In fact, Modern Approaches to Eating finds that 3 in 10 consumers say their diets have gotten worse since prior to COVID-19 because they “eat out more often.”

While eating out more often has certainly benefited a restaurant industry struggling to work its way out of pandemic and economic-driven headwinds, our report finds that restaurants — typically a site of more leniency and indulgence when it comes to health and wellness — can present challenges to consumers trying to stick closely to a specific diet or eating approach. Specifically, it finds that 35% of dieters say they often do not adhere to their diets when dining out (Figure 1), followed by 22% who say the same when ordering take-out or delivery.

Figure 1: Situations with Lower Adherence to Diet (Click to Enlarge)

Source: Modern Approaches to Eating report, 2022, The Hartman Group, Inc.

Modern Approaches - Situations with lower adherence to diet

Much of the departure from normal eating behavior rests on the fact that restaurant occasions are often viewed as special instances where consumers feel like they can or should “cheat” or indulge. This often places foodservice-sourced occasions outside of the normal constraints of a consumer’s particular eating approach. As such, restaurants can also be viewed as a site of temptation that consumers may try to avoid when sticking to their specific diet or eating approach is a priority.

Modern Approaches to Eating finds that for consumers pursuing specific diets and eating approaches across diets, dining out is a top situation when eating rules are set aside, though the specific challenges with dining out differ by diet. For diets that rely on the inclusion or exclusion of specific types of food (low carb, whole foods, free-from, vegan or vegetarian, and whatever a consumer’s individual approach may be), the right options may simply not be available on the menu. For example, among consumers who say they followed a low-carb diet in the past year, 27% say a major challenge to their diet is “restaurants often not offering the right food.”

How Foodservice and Restaurants Can Help

While celebrating and indulging while eating out often create conflict for consumers trying to follow specific eating approaches, restaurants have made some progress in terms of assisting: Menus tend to reflect cultural and dietary trends, meaning that as a particular eating approach, diet, or dietary restriction becomes more well known or widespread, more options tend to show up in foodservice.

This can provide appropriate options for consumers who adhere to such eating approaches and can even help them to explore new dishes or cuisines that fit their unique needs.

Looking Forward – Food Sourcing in America 2022

In terms of how a diverse landscape of headwinds experienced by consumers impact eating out, food shopping and food procurement in general, our newest study, Food Sourcing in America 2022, builds on over twenty years of Hartman Group shopper and eating occasion research to provide insights into how consumer sentiments and behaviors will impact the food and beverage marketplace both today and in the future.

Food Sourcing will provide a comprehensive understanding of shopping and foodservice behavior at the broad level of landscape and culture, as well as at the level of channel and retailer, including:

  • Basic shopping behaviors and habits
  • Cultural context and shopping trip dynamics
  • Role of online and foodservice in the hybrid shopping environment
  • Channel engagement, perceptions, and performance
  • Product discovery in the hybrid world
  • Budget management while mitigating inflation

Food Sourcing in America 2022  Cover

You can learn more about the Food Sourcing in America 2022 study by downloading the overview and order form here.

You can download a free overview and order form for Modern Approaches to Eating here