Consumers want fresh ingredients and choice when they visit restaurants finds new foodservice market research by The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Although quality for the price is the top value driver for foodservice consumers, fresh ingredients is the second most important factor followed by choice, according to a recently released NPD study that models how much each value factor contributes to where consumers choose to eat.

To understand how different consumer groups define value, the NPD report entitled, Defining Value: Where Consumers Choose to Eat Out, identified five segments among restaurant consumers, the largest of which are not driven by lowest pricing and deals. Two of the largest consumer segments, foodies and restaurant regulars, which together represent 58% of the market, care less about price and deals and more about the quality and freshness of their meal. Fresh ingredients and freshly prepared food are also strong motivators among fast casual visitors.

Going beyond “top of mind” perceptions of value, like quality and freshness, consumers are most likely to say they want choice; and, about half say that, according to the NPD report. In the example of combo meals, almost two-thirds of consumers agree that “I’d rather have choice combo meals than pre-determined combo meals.” While offering choices in combo meals is important across all key restaurant channels, consumers visiting fast casual, midscale/family dining, and casual dining restaurants are the most likely to seek choice.

“Quality remains the most important value driver when choosing restaurants and should be viewed as a cost of entry,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Operators must go further, however, and deliver on customization and fresh ingredients as these are other important factors in the value equation.”