The research, conducted in southern California, revealed that 40 percent of participants agree that "prepared foods from retailers are restaurant-quality foods at better prices."
In perhaps even better news for retailers, such as convenience stores, nearly two-thirds of the survey participants said they have seen significant improvements in the quality and variety of retailer prepared foods during the past five years.
Consumers seem to like retailers so much that they are visiting restaurants less often, the study found. Lower-priced restaurants are being impacted the most. More than two-thirds of those consumers who said they cut back on restaurant visits named family- style, upscale fast-food and traditional fast-food locations as the places they frequent less often now.
"Retailers' prepared foods programs have evolved to the point they are considered viable alternatives to restaurants of all types and service styles, from full- and quick-service to upscale and more affordable concepts," said Jenny Anderson, director of Technomic's RMS Monitor service. "The appeal goes well beyond convenience and value. Consumers clearly recognize enhancements that are based on restaurant influences."
When compiling its data, Technomic compared retailer meal solutions (RMS) products. The research firm defines RMS as foods found in sections of the store where consumers can pick up ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat items from service counters or self-service areas. The foods do not require extensive preparation beyond reheating, if applicable.
Although c-stores and other retailers have always fared well in Technomic surveys regarding convenience and value, the Chicago-based researcher's study this time also graded the foodservice products based upon food/ingredient quality, freshness, number of "better-for-you" choices and availability of premium items.