Banker Cibelia Aparecida Poli, 50, never stopped working in person during the pandemic. In the first year and whenever a new wave of Covid-19 set in, she was forced to order delivery to consume at work. But now, with the pandemic under control, the economist and administrator is determined: she wants a place that offers delicious food.
“I don’t like delivery. The food arrives all messy, cold. I prefer to go out to a restaurant close to work”, says Cibelia. “But I notice that, in general, the quality has dropped a lot. The best thing is to arrive at a restaurant where the food is good, homemade.”
Cibelia’s willingness to go for more flavorful food is not an isolated case. According to a survey by the consultancy Galunion, specialized in the food service market, consuming delicious food is today the main criterion for Brazilians when choosing a restaurant (61% response) – ahead of fair prices ( 58%) and even hygiene and cleaning (56%).
“These three criteria – tasty food, fair price and hygiene and cleanliness – have always been the main attributes observed in the search for a restaurant”, says the president of Galunion, Simone Galante. “But in the last two years, with the pandemic, hygiene and cleanliness took the lead as the main criterion of choice. Now, however, even with the sharp rise in food prices, what is most sought after is delicious food.”
The Galunion survey was carried out online in September, with 1,045 consumers across the country, from classes A, B and C, over 18 years old. According to the survey, there has been an increase in the number of consumers working this year – from 76% in February to 82% in September.
Of these, 93% are from class A, 87% from class B and 73% from class C. Almost half (44%) are hired, while just over a quarter (26%) are self-employed. A slice of 12% works both for companies and autonomously, to supplement income.
Increase in menu prices made 64% attend fewer restaurants
The survey also pointed out that 56% never or rarely buy from delivery.
“There was a moment of the pandemic when everyone bought at delivery”, says Simone. But the fact that 12% continue to order food from work “most of the time” and 32% “sometimes” is significant, she says. “Until recently, delivery was just for pizza at night. After the pandemic, it became present on several occasions of consumption.”
The willingness to put taste first may also be related to the rise in food prices. Having to deal with a galloping inflation of 9.54% in the first nine months of the year, the restaurant often changes ingredients or changes suppliers, in an attempt to reduce costs. The end result may not please you.
“The consumer always notices when there is a worsening in the quality of the dish or service”, says Simone. According to another survey by Galunion, with restaurants, faced with rising costs, the first option for establishments is to reduce waste (63% response). Next, there are changes in suppliers (57%) and price increases (47%).
“Restaurants try alternatives before increasing menu prices, because they know that this will directly impact public attendance,” says Simone. The Galunion survey pointed out, by the way, that almost two thirds (64%) of Brazilians gave up eating in restaurants on a daily basis, or decreased their frequency, due to the increase in the price of the menu.
Owner of Pizza Hut, KFC, Frango Assado, Viena and Oliver Garden, IMC points out the high price of raw materials as the most critical cost of the operation this year. “The first six months of the year were very intense due to high inflation, which ended up improving a little more in the last three months”, says Alex BX Pinto, director of brands and sales at IMC.
The company, according to him, has been trying to reduce waste by improving operational flow and reviewing internal processes. “A second way is in the search for alternative suppliers to minimize possible impacts for the consumer”, says the Executive.
IMC adopts different strategies for each brand, according to the main sales channel. At Pizza Hut, for example, the counter and digital (delivery) channels each represent 50% of sales. At KFC, only 25% of sales are digital.
“At Frango Assado, where the sale is 100% in person, we created a loyalty program, Fran-GO, with discounts, advantages and exclusive promotions”, says Alex Pinto. “At KFC we launched a more economical sandwich with a good entry price and great quality, the Chicken Coronel, for R$9.90.”
Smaller restaurants also sought alternatives to deal with the expressive rise in food prices. “We had to pass something on to the menu, but still below the readjustments that come to us”, says Gustavo Iglesias, owner of BEC Bar, in Pinheiros, west of São Paulo. The establishment was focused on craft beer and barbecue, but with rising costs, the menu changed.
“We brought more options for snacks and hamburgers, we invested in cocktails, and this contributed to increase our margins, conquering a new clientele”, says Iglesias. The BEC Bar, however, which was open six days a week, for lunch and dinner, started to work only from Thursday to Sunday night.
“The offices in the region did not return, so I stopped selling executive lunch”, he says. “I started working with a much smaller team, focused on weekends.”
Another measure was to change the meat pattern – only working with premium cuts. “As we had to increase the price, we also wanted to increase the quality”, he says. “Of course, meat consumption fell in general, but those who end up spending it are more satisfied”, says Iglesias, who claims to have recorded a drop in billing in relation to the pre-pandemic, but now has greater profitability.
Abrasel predicts a real increase of 5% in revenues this year, to R$ 396 billion
In the opinion of Paulo Solmucci Jr., president of Abrasel (Brazilian Association of Bars and Restaurants), the sector is recovering very well from the pandemic. “Galunion’s data, that almost two-thirds of consumers have reduced their frequency in restaurants because of the price, makes little sense to me”, says the Executive. “Our sector has grown above the Brazilian average.”
Before the pandemic, in 2019, the bar and restaurant sector earned around R$ 235 billion. “For this year, the forecast is to reach R$ 396 billion, a real growth of 5% over 2021”, he says.
Solmucci acknowledges, however, that Brazilians are “seeking to consume what fits in their pocket”. “Restaurants have been doing this gymnastics, readjusting food prices below inflation.”
In September, inflation accumulated by the IPCA for the year registered a high of 4.09%, while food outside the home increased by 6.01%. Food inflation reached 9.54% in the period, the highest rate until September since the launch of the Real Plan.
According to the Galunion survey, the majority of class A (53%) and class B (51%) intend to keep spending on food outside the home in the next six months. Already 58% of the C class want to reduce this expense.
“Controlling waste is a permanent struggle, there is a great effort to gain in productivity”, says Solmucci. “We always fight not to pass on the increase in food prices to the menu.”