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Ethnic Restaurants - US - March 2012

Ethnic restaurants have proliferated as Americans’ palates have become sophisticated and diners have sought out new flavors and experiences. Italian, Mexican, and Chinese cuisines remain the most popular, with more than half of all respondents having visited one or more such restaurants in the past month.

As the economy improves in 2012, Mintel sees restaurant patronage and sales rising. A majority of Americans say they are more open to ethnic dining than in the past, and an opportunity for growth now exists if ethnic concepts move quickly to capture it. Ethnic restaurant concepts face several unique challenges to growth, among them higher prices than for American fare, a belief that chain operations are less authentic than independent ethnic restaurants, and a lack of knowledge about many of the flavors and ingredients that inhibits exploration of new cuisines.

In this report, Mintel presents analysis of the ethnic restaurant marketplace using proprietary research into consumer attitudes and behaviors toward dining including:

  • overall restaurant usage and ethnic concepts’ place in the marketplace
  • economic and social factors that drive ethnic restaurant demand
  • the impact of population shifts on the supply of and consumer interest in ethnic fare
  • how consumers learn about global cuisines and ethnic restaurants
  • how marketing strategies, especially digital and social media, can transform awareness into patronage
  • consumer attitudes about ethnic cuisines and the advantages and barriers they create
  • consumers’ definitions of “authenticity” and their impact on menu and marketing
  • improvements in ethnic restaurants that diners say would lead them to choose ethnic concepts more often.

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Data sources
        • Mintel Menu Insights
          • Consumer survey data
            • Advertising creative
              • Abbreviations and terms
                • Abbreviations
                  • Terms
                  • Executive Summary

                    • Overview
                      • Population trends favor ethnic restaurants
                        • Chipotle’s success is bringing others to the ethnic category
                          • Ethnic restaurants are more expensive than American-menu concepts…
                            • …however, quality is more important to diners than is price
                              • “Authenticity” is important but difficult to define
                                • The lure of the “new,” the comfort of the familiar
                                  • The price of greater authenticity is deeper unfamiliarity
                                    • Word-of-mouth is how diners most often hear about new ethnic cuisines
                                      • Foreign travel introduces consumers to new cuisines
                                      • Insights and Opportunities

                                        • The window of opportunity is open
                                          • Awareness has never been higher
                                            • Mainstream restaurants are rapidly incorporating ethnic fare
                                              • Ethnic chains need to earn authenticity
                                                • More ethnic restaurants should explore joining the food truck craze
                                                  • Ethnic concepts do a poor job of explaining/selling their authenticity
                                                    • Ethnic restaurants need to balance menu pricing
                                                      • Ethnic concepts need to get ahead of healthy foods trends
                                                        • Social media and digital media are ideal marketing channels
                                                        • Inspire Insights

                                                            • Trend: Fauxthenticity
                                                              • Figure 1: Determining authenticity, December 2011
                                                            • Trend: A Simple Balance for Health
                                                            • Market Drivers

                                                              • Key points
                                                                • Slow economic recovery poses a serious challenge
                                                                  • Figure 2: Real disposable personal income, January 2007-December 2011
                                                                  • Figure 3: Unemployment and underemployment rates, January 2007-January 2012
                                                                  • Figure 4: Consumer Sentiment Index, March 2007-February 2012
                                                                • The restaurant industry turns a corner toward growth
                                                                  • Figure 5: NRA performance indices, January 2009-January 2012
                                                                  • Figure 6: Adjusted foodservice and drinking place sales, January 2008-January 2012
                                                                • Population trends work in ethnic restaurants’ favor
                                                                  • Figure 7: Projection of U.S. Population by Race, 2010 to 2050
                                                                • Travel to and from the U.S. is increasing
                                                                    • Figure 8: International travel arrivals to the U.S.
                                                                • Ethnic Restaurant Brand Analysis

                                                                  • Key points
                                                                    • Italian
                                                                      • Olive Garden
                                                                        • Maggiano’s Little Italy
                                                                          • Fazoli’s
                                                                            • Piada Italian Street Food
                                                                              • Asian
                                                                                • P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
                                                                                  • Pei Wei Asian Diner
                                                                                    • Lee’s Sandwiches
                                                                                      • ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen
                                                                                        • Kogi Korean BBQ-To-Go
                                                                                          • Little Sheep
                                                                                            • Mexican
                                                                                              • Taco Bell
                                                                                                • Chipotle Mexican Grill
                                                                                                  • Chevys Fresh Mex
                                                                                                    • Lime Fresh Mexican Grill
                                                                                                      • The Rest of the World
                                                                                                        • Bombay Bowl
                                                                                                          • Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill
                                                                                                            • Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill
                                                                                                              • The Kati Roll Company
                                                                                                                • Multiethnic
                                                                                                                  • True Food Kitchen
                                                                                                                    • Noodles & Company
                                                                                                                      • Coming to America
                                                                                                                        • Bibigo
                                                                                                                          • Jollibee
                                                                                                                          • Marketing Strategies

                                                                                                                            • Overview
                                                                                                                              • Television
                                                                                                                                • Competition from non-ethnic concepts
                                                                                                                                  • Figure 9: Applebee’s TV Commercial
                                                                                                                                • Taco Bell asserts its authenticity
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 10: Taco Bell TV Commercial
                                                                                                                                  • Olive Garden: When you’re here, you’re in Tuscany
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 11: Olive Garden TV Commercial
                                                                                                                                  • P.F. Chang’s celebrates the unusual
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 12: P.F. Chang’s China Bistro TV Commercial
                                                                                                                                    • On the Border: All the right moves
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 13: On the Border TV Commercial
                                                                                                                                    • Digital and social media
                                                                                                                                      • P.F. Chang’s new word-of-mouth marketing
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 14: P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Promotion
                                                                                                                                      • ShopHouse and Panda Express put Facebook to work
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 15: ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen Facebook page
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 16: Panda Express Facebook page offer
                                                                                                                                      • Use the “blogosphere”
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 17: Big Bowl blog
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 18: Pasta Pomodoro blog
                                                                                                                                      • Pei Wei’s way
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 19: Pei Wei Asian Diner YouTube channel
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 20: Pei Wei website and Facebook pages
                                                                                                                                      • Welcome to Moe’s digital marketing
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 21: Moe’s Southwest Grill website
                                                                                                                                      • Chipotle uses digital media with integrity
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 22: Chipotle’s YouTube channel page
                                                                                                                                      • Wow Bao explores the next word-of-mouth extension
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 23: Wow Bao’s Pinterest page
                                                                                                                                      • Chutney’s takes word-of-mouth digital
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 24: Chutney’s “Tell a friend” website app
                                                                                                                                    • Menu Insights Analysis: Top Menu Items

                                                                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                                                                        • Ethnic hybrids also continue to emerge
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 25: Top 10 cuisine types on restaurant menus, by incidence, Q4 2008-Q4 2011
                                                                                                                                          • Ethnic foods cost more than traditional American fare
                                                                                                                                            • The challenge for ethnic restaurants: Increase consumer appeal despite higher menu prices
                                                                                                                                              • Pricing patterns among ethnic cuisine
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 26: Top 10 cuisine types on restaurant menus, by incidence and price, Q4 2008-Q4 2011
                                                                                                                                              • Menu Insights Analysis: Top Flavors and Geographic Claims

                                                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 27: Top 10 flavors on restaurant menus, by incidence, Q4 2008-Q4 2011
                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 28: Top 10 ingredient geographic claims, by incidence, Q4 2008-Q4 2011
                                                                                                                                                • Restaurant Usage

                                                                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 29: Restaurant usage frequency, by gender, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 30: Restaurant usage frequency, by age, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 31: Restaurant usage frequency, by household income, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 32: Restaurant usage frequency, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 33: Restaurant usage incidence, by gender, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 34: Restaurant usage incidence, by age, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 35: Restaurant usage incidence, by household income, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 36: Restaurant usage incidence, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                  • Ordering Ethnic Cuisine Items

                                                                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 37: Ethnic cuisines purchased, by gender, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 38: Ethnic cuisines purchased, by age, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 39: Ethnic cuisines purchased, by household income, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 40: Ethnic cuisines purchased, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                    • Consumer Attitudes toward Ethnic Cuisine

                                                                                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 41: Attitudes toward ethnic restaurants, by gender, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 42: Attitudes toward ethnic restaurants, by age, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 43: Attitudes toward ethnic restaurants, by household income, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 44: Attitudes toward ethnic restaurants, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                      • Attributes of Ethnic Restaurants

                                                                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 45: Ethnic restaurant attributes, by gender, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 46: Ethnic restaurant attributes, by age, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 47: Ethnic restaurant attributes, by household income, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 48: Ethnic restaurant attributes, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                        • Authenticity in Ethnic Cuisine

                                                                                                                                                          • Key points
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 49: Determining authenticity, by gender, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 50: Determining authenticity, by age, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 51: Determining authenticity, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                          • Improvement for Restaurants

                                                                                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 52: Improvement for ethnic restaurants, by gender, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 53: Improvement for ethnic restaurants, by age, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 54: Improvement for ethnic restaurants, by household income, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 55: Improvement for ethnic restaurants, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                            • Learning about Ethnic Cuisines

                                                                                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 56: Learning about new ethnic cuisines, by gender, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 57: Learning about new ethnic cuisines, by age, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 58: Learning about new ethnic cuisines, by household income, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 59: Learning about new ethnic cuisines, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                              • World Travel and Ethnic Cuisine Interest

                                                                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 60: Travel to foreign countries, by gender, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 61: Travel to foreign countries, by age, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 62: Travel to foreign countries, by household income, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 63: Travel to foreign countries, by race/Hispanic origin, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                • Custom Groups: Light, Medium, Heavy

                                                                                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 64: Restaurant usage incidence, by frequency groups, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 65: Ethnic cuisines purchased, by frequency groups, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 66: Ethnic restaurant attributes, by frequency group, December 2011
                                                                                                                                                                  • Appendix: Trade Associations

                                                                                                                                                                    Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                                                    • Benihana Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Brinker International Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Cinnabon, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Darden Restaurants Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Fazoli's Restaurants, Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Moe's Southwest Grill, LLC
                                                                                                                                                                    • Noodles & Company
                                                                                                                                                                    • Panera Bread Company
                                                                                                                                                                    • Pizza Hut
                                                                                                                                                                    • Qdoba Restaurant Corporation
                                                                                                                                                                    • Real Mex Restaurants
                                                                                                                                                                    • Rubio's Restaurants Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Ruby Tuesday Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Taco Bell Corp.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Taco Del Mar Franchising Corp.
                                                                                                                                                                    • Yoshinoya America, Inc.

                                                                                                                                                                    Ethnic Restaurants - US - March 2012

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