The food at any Fourth of July party is quintessential Americana, but like Thanksgiving, it tends to emphasize home cooking. Most Fourth of July hosts will have a barbecue or cookout (yes, there is a difference), along with cheap beer, sides, and salads. Expert hosts may even make the iconic berry cake that looks like an American flag. All told, Americans can expect to spend $7.7B on food and $1.4B on beer and wine for the festivities.
So how should foodservice manufacturers approach a holiday that is dominated by home cooking? Whether they have a direct-to-consumer line or focus solely on restaurant supply, manufacturers can elevate the Fourth of July experience by thinking like caterers and embracing convenience.
Think Like a Caterer
Odds are, the consumer will not eat Fourth of July products in a restaurant. They will cook for themselves or pick up restaurant food, transport it to another location (their home or a park), and potentially finish the cooking process there. This means the Fourth of July experience is more akin to catering than traditional foodservice. Whether consumers cook at home or buy food from a restaurant, manufacturers can elevate the experience by thinking like a caterer. Manufacturers should:
- Curate a menu of items that pair well together. Caterers do not offer single products, they provide a whole meal. Sure, the burger or pulled pork will be the star of the show, but the plate will seem empty without greens or potato salad. A curated menu not only lets you sell more product, but it also ensures a more complete, satisfactory customer experience.
- Provide guidance on portion sizes. Most people do not cook for 20 guests on a regular basis. A caterer provides clients guidance on how much to cook. Cookout hosts, for example, should expect that each guest will eat one hamburger and one hot dog, and then add 20% for guests who are extra hungry. Barbecue hosts, on the other hand, should anticipate one-third to one-half a pound of brisket or pulled pork per guest. Similarly, sides should come with per person guidance so that consumers can accurately anticipate their needs.
- Plan for Last Mile Transportation and Logistics. Caterers sweat the details. Walk through the end consumer’s interaction with your products, and design packaging and instructions that ensure they have the experience you want them to have. The hot food should stay hot; the cold food should stay cold; and any instructions for finishing or serving the food should maintain food safety standards and your brand’s quality.
Cookouts are considered the “easier” alternative to barbecues, but manufacturers can add value with labor saving approaches for both. Pre-made hamburger patties are easy wins, but there are other ways to create value and save your customers’ time:
- Marination puts time on your side. Pre-marinated or pre-seasoned meats make the cooking process so much easier on your customer. In addition to creating a more flavorful product, it means they will not need to allocate space in their refrigerators for the meat until the day they need it. Similarly, many Fourth of July sides (e.g., pasta salad) benefit from letting the flavors marinate for a day or two. By pre-making sides and handling the prep work on the meat and sides, manufacturers save time while also delivering a higher quality experience.
- Kits save labor and allow customization. Let’s be honest, the berry American flag cake your mom makes every year? It’s probably a box mix. And that’s ok. Cake mixes continue to grow in popularity, as they have the convenience of a store-bought cake, but the personalization and experience of making it from scratch . Similarly, a kit allows consumers to have a convenient, but “make at home” experience. Sell the cake, frosting, and berries as a kit, and let the customer assemble and decorate it at home. Not only does it save restaurants valuable labor, it also preserves the cake’s quality, and gives the kids at the party an important job to do while they wait for the fireworks to start. Other kit products could include salads or macaroni and cheese.
The Bottom Line
Even though Fourth of July is a less formal holiday, with partiers cooking at home or at a park, food manufacturers can still create value for their customers, both restaurants and direct-to-consumer alike. By thinking like a caterer and embracing convenience, you can ensure a quality experience and flavorful food for all.