Why Consumers Crave Pumpkin Spice
ubiquitous as the changing colors of the leaves or a crisp chill in the air,
the arrival of pumpkin-spice-flavored everything signals that fall is here.
Ever since Starbucks
introduced the pumpkin spice latte (or PSL, for short) in 2003, the craze has
been on a meteoric rise. In just the last five years, pumpkin spice product
sales have increased about 47%, reaching $236 million in the 2021-22 season
alone, reported The Guardian.
consumers, the arrival of pumpkin products signifies the changing of the
seasons, and after a long summer, everyone's ready for fall flavors," Kevin
Bryla, CMO and head of customer experience at SpotOn, told The Food
Pumpkin Spice Effect
consumers crave these products when fall rolls around is simple – they are only
available for a limited time, which makes them feel special.
spice and other fall flavors aren't available all year round, so there's a
sense of urgency for customers to get [them] while they can," Bryla said.
although Starbucks sells PSLs in 82 countries and pumpkin is available in most
parts of the world, pumpkin-spice fever is limited to North America. This could
be because the U.S. and Canada are the only countries where pumpkin pie is
popular, and the flavor of pumpkin pie is largely defined by its spices –
typically cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.
the Feeling of Fall
industry experts suggest that this flavor profile is so popular because it
evokes and capitalizes upon positive feelings associated with the fall season.
a powerful motivator for purchase," Northeastern business professor
Bruce Clark wrote about the ‘pumpkin spice economy' in 2018. "To the extent
you're looking forward to the fall season, here's one reminder of that season.
Buying the product reinforces those good feelings."
the flavor is the commodification of the feeling of fall, and consumers eagerly
await its return every year. So much so, that they're willing to pay a premium
A 2020 study
conducted by Magnify Money found an average pumpkin spice tax of 8.8%
across 40 items from six retailers. The study also revealed that the average
Starbucks pumpkin-spice drink costs $15.9% more than its non-pumpkin
surprise then, that new products and menu items under the category umbrella
arrive each year.
introducing a seasonal, limited-time offer supported by proper marketing to
guests, a restaurant can drive sales from late August well into November,"
Bryla said. Food Institute Focus
Lamenting ‘Line Balk' Trend
remote working and zoom conferencing, long waits at the drive-thru line are a
pandemic vestige that just won't go away. And that's causing line balk among
took hold in the U.S. and efforts were made to minimize viral spread while
keeping restaurants open, the beloved drive-thru window got its renaissance.
Once a convenient service alternative quickly became one of the only options
restaurants had to serve safely and efficiently.
the unintended consequence of that was painfully long lines of cars inching
their way through parking lots and streets.
As time has
passed and the threat of infection has reduced, this pandemic-era habit is
proving hard to break. Long lines around fast-food restaurants continue to be a
common sight at peak hours, raising the question about the practicality of the
drive-thru and how it can be improved.
for restaurant chains like Starbucks and Chick-fil-A have
acknowledged the issues caused by daunting drive-thru lines and how it
negatively impacts sales, according to Business Insider.
Issues at Play
rush, seeing the long line of cars is enough to drive dozens of potential
customers away. The phenomenon, sometimes referred to as "line balk," has been
a lingering hurdle for restaurants to clear in a more post-pandemic economy.
didn't create the issue of the long drive-thru, but it did exacerbate it. While
it's true many consumers grew far too comfortable with not leaving their cars
to pick up food during 2020, other factors have led to a more nuanced problem.
without saying the fast-food industry, and restaurants in general, continue to
struggle with retaining staff. Many businesses simply don't have the man-power
to accommodate the high demand for drive-thru service. Having inexperienced
staff also leads to longer wait times.
that fast-food restaurants have largely reopened their dining areas recently
didn't necessarily solve the issue, it just got more complicated. Faced with
labor shortages and evolving consumer demands, the fast-food industry has had
to re-evaluate and reprioritize its approach to service.
the pandemic, not only did the drive-thru see an uptick, mobile pickup orders
and third-party delivery services also saw an increase in demand. Restaurants
have had to focus more effort toward fulfilling these orders, sometimes at the
expense of their in-house patrons.
a CNN report, that leads to the perception in many consumers that
ordering at the counter is simply always going to be the slowest option. In
some cases, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as restaurants must
delegate resources to wherever will yield the most profit: the drive-thru and
raises larger questions about how restaurants can adapt.
lunch rush is great for sales, an influx of cars in such a limited space
creates a logistical nightmare for these businesses and their neighbors.
franchises have already adopted multiple drive-thru lanes or having staff take
orders out on a mobile device; anything that helps make the lines more speedy
and efficient. Still, with so many drivers bogging down the lines, restaurant
companies are exploring other alternatives to take some of the pressure off the
pickup via an in-house mobile app has seen a gradual rise in usage, plus it can
help build customer loyalty. Places like Chipotle and Panera Bread
utilize this practice, and fast food has been taking the same approach to help
companies are even turning to AI technology to help with the ordering process.
Last year, Kentucky Fried Chicken introduced a "Quick Pick-Up" option
for customers to order ahead and have assigned parking spots for mobile orders,
according to CNN, and McDonald's has already begun testing
automated order-taking systems.
effective some of these changes will be remains to be seen, nevertheless,
companies have a large task at hand of balancing their operating logistics with
the promised convenience of the drive-thru experience. Food Institute Focus
Surging in Popularity
been around for thousands of years, yet they appear to be as popular as ever.
Whether as a side or as a burger topping, pickles have become a true staple at
restaurants, especially in 2022.
43.9% of restaurant menus mentioned pickled ingredients in the second quarter
of this year, according to Technomic data. That represents a rise in popularity
for pickles during the last couple years.
It begs the
question: How, exactly, have pickles become more popular than ever?
about reinvention. Even though classic pickle pairings aren't going anywhere,
restaurants are finding new ways to present the ingredient. Think Sonic's
Pickle Juice Slush, Diller's pickled-pineapple lemonade or Crane's
pickled foie gras, as noted by Restaurant Business.
interesting dynamic going on with pickles. About a decade ago we saw a
resurging popularity for fried pickles, even though they had been around since
the ‘60s," Allen Bixby, author and restaurant owner at notakeout.com, told The
Food Institute. "Couple that with the Pan-Asian food boom, which brought
new ranges and styles of pickled veggies, and you have a food thousands of
years old, re-inserting itself to our culinary diorama.
layer was both a positive health image, along with an introduction into the
adult beverage scene."
Why not find something new? Well, pickles are a very cost-effective ingredient
and can be used many ways. For example, Bixby suggests never dumping the pickle
free money, usable as a beverage or sauce base among a number of outlets,"
Bixby says. "Base a bloody Mary in that for example, and the natural garnish is
the pickle itself. Same for a pickle beer and pickle martini. Add a couple
ingredients and you have a versatile coleslaw or salad dressing."
pickling any crispy vegetable is easy and lends itself to creating signature
flavors, Bixby adds.
traditional to garlic to ginger to ghost peppers; these recipes yearn for
distinctive flavors and [are] already trending as a popular statement in
boutique restaurants," Bixby said. "Tossed in salads, offered as standalone
starters, or served as a side to rich dishes, there are a multitude of places
to incorporate them in a menu." Food Institute Focus
- Taco Bell
plans to pivot its
breakfast to focus more on "ease and familiarity," and has
enlisted comedian Pete Davidson to help push this message. The company is
facing more competition in the breakfast daypart, with Wendy's on track to get
10% of its sales in the morning and McDonald's breakfast sales recovering,
reported Restaurant Business (Oct. 3). Full Story
- Meanwhile, Taco
Bell and Beyond Meat announced a plan to test the Beyond Carne Asada
Steak product beginning October 13 in Dayton, Ohio, reported Fast
Company (Sept. 21). Full Story
- Chipotle will test a robotic tortilla chip
maker named "Chippy" next month in California. Chippy is an autonomous kitchen
assistant made by Miso Robotics that Chipotle hopes will free up workers
from tasks like frying tortilla chips, reported CNBC (Sept. 27). Full Story
- Starbucks and Delta announced on
Wednesday that they have linked their loyalty programs, meaning customers can,
for example, earn free coffee by flying, reported Axios (Oct. 12). Full Story
- A group
representing McDonald's owners said the company rejected its request to
delay changes to franchising policies, including updated standards and
adjustments to how the company evaluates potential new restaurant operators.
McDonald's unveiled new policy changes during the summer, sparking tensions
between some operators and the company, reported CNBC (Sept. 28). Full Story
- Meanwhile, McDonald's
is releasing Happy Meals for adults in an initiative designed to work off the
nostalgia of the restaurant's famous red cardboard boxes. The Cactus Plant Flea
Market Box is a collaboration between McDonald's and the streetwear brand, and
each box will include a full-size meal and one of four collectible figurines,
reported CNBC (Sept. 29). Full Story
Executives on the Move:
John R. Tyson to EVP and CFO effective October 2. Additionally, the company
named Amy Tu president of international and chief administrative officer,
reported The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 27). Full Story
- Dunkin' has named Jill McVicar Nelson its
CMO. She had been the former VP of marketing strategy for the donut chain,
reported Restaurant Business (Sept. 23). Full Story
- Chuck E.
Cheese has appointed
Mario Centola its executive vice president and chief operating officer of
international operations, and Adrienne Gonzalez its new director of
international marketing. Full Story
John's has named
Mark Kocer chief operations officer. The 30-year industry veteran will now
oversee day-to-day operations, reported qsrweb.com. Full Story