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    New Menu Items Are a Hard Sell With Majority of Consumers

    Taste and visual appeal make the difference for open-minded diners.

    CHICAGO -- Although restaurant operators heavily promote new additions to their menus, approximately 70 percent of consumers won't try new menu items, according to The NPD Group's new report, Menu Item Trial: Motivating First-Time and Repeat Orders. However, of the 30 percent who are "early adopters," 17 percent will order a brand-new item and 10 percent will try a limited-time offer item.

    Consumers try a new or unfamiliar item based on their perceptions of its taste and visual appeal, but may also consider its healthfulness and price when making a decision, NPD found. In general, consumers tend to replace their pre-planned choice with a new menu item only if it is in the same food type as the item they originally planned to order. The exception is the snacks category, where any other food type has an equal chance of being replaced.

    A first-time menu item purchase during a restaurant visit also occurs less frequently at quick-service restaurants than at full-service restaurants, according to the report. The highest incidence of trial of a new or unfamiliar menu item occurs at casual-dining restaurants and is related to the quality/freshness of the ingredients used, the item being a good meal accompaniment choice, and the ability to share the menu item with others.

    Main dishes account for half of the new menu items ordered, with sandwiches making up nearly half of the remaining new menu items ordered.

    "Insight into the reasons why consumers try a food or beverage menu item that they have not purchased before provides restaurant operators with the knowledge required for successful product innovation, introduction and marketing," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD's restaurant analyst. "In addition, stimulating menu-item trial and delivering a satisfying experience should lead to repeat visits and sustained customer loyalty."

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