New research from French bakery experts St Pierre Bakery reveals that food is still at the heart of the nation, with interesting insights for retail and foodservice sectors.

Almost half (46 percent) believe that a first date should always include food, but the rise of street food experiences in the U.S. means that 30 percent are heading to food markets and 31 percent choose to romance a partner at a food festival.

The research, which was carried out whilst many states still had restrictions in place signals a positive return to business for many of America’s restaurants, but has also been developed to help retailers with innovative merchandising solutions to bring shoppers back in-store.

Paul Baker, founder of St Pierre Bakery, comments, “We are all aware of how popular food boxes and delivery services have become over the past few months. In fact, 46 percent of us enjoyed food together ‘virtually’ in some way over the past year, which goes to show how big a role food plays in our daily lives. It’s also key to recognize that 63 percent of Americans are spending more each week on their food shop now than pre-pandemic. But what’s even more interesting is what people are spending that money on.”

The increase in at-home cooking has driven the adoption of more exploratory flavor profiles which, in turn, has created new opportunities, with 85 percent of American adults admitting to having changed their eating habits in the past year.

One in three US adults have signed up to a subscription box in a bid to keep their menu exciting, whilst a further 24 percent have taken advantage of entrepreneurial restaurateurs pivoting business to produce meal kit boxes. 

Baker adds, “Great food is a joy to be shared but this research might provide some insight for restaurants revising their menus for a return to business. It turns out 49 percent of us would never share a meal on a date.”

Meal occasions have also changed dramatically over the past 12 months, driving growth in the breakfast and brunch market. Of those surveyed, 45 percent believe that a date over breakfast for brunch would help keep the atmosphere casual, one in three (36 percent) actually prefer it to any other meal time for a date, and 87 percent have opted for a breakfast or brunch date.

Baker continued, “This is great insight for key occasions. For retailers, they can revise their cross-merchandising in-store to drive sales. Valentine’s Day next year might be more about breakfast than a romantic evening meal—why not capitalize on sales and inspire a range of meal ideas that cater to changing consumer attitudes? The same is true for foodservice operators reviewing their menus. With so many now dating at breakfast or brunch, then there’s a missed opportunity in not elevating your menu to cater to these occasions.”

The survey from St Pierre also revealed other occasions that could deliver opportunities for retailers, with ‘meeting the in-laws’ calling for a salad, a proposal accompanied by steak and a home-move demanding a burger.

St Pierre has developed a series of recipes, based on the findings, to help shoppers recreate the meals at home and to inspire operators to embrace new trends. Along with a quiz that guesses how long consumers have been in a relationship, the brand has launched its ‘Fall in Love with St Pierre’ campaign across PR, social, digital, and out-of-home marketing channels.

Related: 2019 Bakery of the Year: St Pierre Groupe