How chains are reaching the value-conscious consumer during dinner, as told by Crust, Roll’d and Motto Motto

Find out the chains’ latest moves to get a bigger bite of the daypart.

More evening-friendly locations, cheaper side dishes and order-to-table services may become key elements in the value-conscious consumer's post-pandemic dinner dining experience, three chains revealed to QSR Media in separate interviews.

“We are currently seeing a trend leaning towards customers wanting to pay less due to the constraints of 2021,” Crust general manager Jon Paul Patyka said, explaining that their $5 side offers are “going well.”

“We’ve identified that our consumers want us to be open later in the evenings, which is why moving forward, we are working towards more Roll’d stores in evening-accessible locations that include dine-in space,” added Dennis Koorey, the Vietnamese chain’s chief operating officer.

Matt Fickling, Motto Motto’s chief operating officer, suggested a “notable shift” from counter-service to table service informing them to launch an order-to-table service.

“This has helped on two fronts, one being the amount of side dishes sold per main meal significantly increasing at dinner. Additionally, we have seen the dinner day part see more transactions for just drinks or desserts,” he added, saying these transactions can be linked to a second order during the same daypart from the same customer.

Shared experiences, premium ingredients
Daily, Crust said its peak times for dinner are within 6pm to 8pm, with a big sales increase on Fridays and Saturdays. The Retail Food Group-owned pizza chain is also seeing a surge in returning customers and customers signing up to their loyalty programme.

Roll’d, seeking a bigger role in dinner, identified a large shift in the market for more casual dining over fine dining experiences during and post-COVID. Citing their own market research, the chain says Australians are eating out at fine dining restaurants less frequently, around once a fortnight, compared to people enjoying fast-casual dining around once or twice a week.

Motto Motto observed consumers wanting the Japanese chain’s “substantial food experiences” such as curries and ramen, with share-style sides including gyoza, edamame and Japanese fries being the most popular items during dinner times. This, coupled with beer and wine sales,  dictate a longer dwelling time and higher average transaction value compared to lunch, Fickling revealed.

Their side category, notably, was also “reengineered” by reducing the portion size and price to be priced between $2-6, resulting in growth.

“Simple menu design changes, the re-engineering of portion sizes, product names, product descriptions and product pricing has seen great examples in volume growth that has increased our performance items per transaction and average transaction value. For example, gyoza has grown by 24% in volume and Japanese croquettes by 48%,” he noted.

Growth in delivery transactions during dinner times also informed Roll’d’s decision to expand options and hours.

“Those ordering dinner via delivery apps want hotter, warmer options that are still in the healthy category. They want a filling, balanced meal for dinner which is why we’ve expanded our soups and rice menu to include substantial and balanced meals,” Koorey explained.

Crust, meanwhile, hinted at a reversal of transactions via aggregators.

“We do see that third-party aggregators are starting to trend backwards due to their inability to service customers' needs during peak times. Customers would rather just order directly from our website,” Patyka said.

All three chains remained optimistic for the dinner daypart in the near future. Patyka teased Crust;s plans to take their gourmet menu “to another level.” 

“There are a few brands out there who “claim” to be gourmet and we’d like to remind them [of] the distance you need to go to achieve that message,” he said.

Whilst optimistic about its growth in the daypart, Roll’d cited its property mix and staffing as some concerns.

“We have many stores in food courts or CBD offices where they’re not necessarily designed to trade for dinner. Internally, NPD and launching menu items with limited space in kitchens can be difficult for staff,” Koorey admitted. “We also rely heavily on international students, so the labour force and finding staff has been a real challenge during this time.”

For Motto Motto, Fickling says they are focused on re-launching their wine and beer category, launching “premium higher cost, high margin value added” desserts,  frozen cocktails and Japanese-style burgers made from premium fine-dining ingredients.

“Customers are looking for more in their dinner dining experience - convenience, safety, premium quality ingredients and a unique and tailored service experience, which will be driven by technology in the form of AI-powered dining," he concluded.

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