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February 2024 Food Trends: 13% Increase In Desserts

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Tessa ZuluagaAuthor

As the seasons change, so do customer preferences. From Jan.1 to Feb. 29, 2024, Toast analyzed month-over-month food sales to find out what’s currently trending in the restaurant industry. When looking at February (compared to January) we found some interesting insights. This article breaks down February 2024 food trends for restaurants to use to assist in daily operations such as menu planning and inventory.  

At a glance in February:

  • Dessert sales increased by 13% 

  • Steak sales increased by 12% 

  • Pasta sales increased by 11%

  • Vegan/vegetarian items increased  sales by 10% 

  • Nacho sales increased by 10%

  • Wing sales increased by 4%

  • Curry increased by 2%

  • Dumplings increased by 2%

  • Noodles and ramen sales decreased by 3%

  • Soups and stew sales decreased by 4%

Let’s break these insights down.

February Month-Over-Month Food Trends 

Time moves fast, and you might be asking yourself, what even happened in February? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a general recap of dates and events that happened in February (in case you forgot).

  • The Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11, a game that most Americans enjoyed while snacking on chicken wings (a 25% increase in average order volume in NFL cities on Sundays through Week 13 of the 2023 season).2

  • Valentine’s Day took place on the Feb. 14 (as always), a holiday in which guests spent more than double (108%) in 2023 on steaks on Valentine’s Day overall compared to the annual daily average — $191,000 vs $92,000.3

  • Lent 2024 also kicked off on Feb. 14 and continues through March 28. Many of those who partake in Lent sacrifice eating meat on Fridays. 

  • President’s Day 2024 was on Feb. 19, giving Americans a long weekend to dine out on a Sunday night that typically they might stay in. 

Let’s take a look at how these dates impacted dining trends in February 2024.  

Trend 1: Superbowl Sunday Food

The big game took place on Feb. 11 between the San Francisco 49ers (Brock Purdy) and the Kansas City Chiefs (Taylor Swift). We already know the most popular game day foods include chicken wings, nachos, and hard seltzers. So it was no surprise that wing sales increased by 4% and nacho sales by 10% in February.  Football continues to keep sports bar/restaurant sales higher than average, and alcohol sales are 6% higher on Sundays during football season compared to out-of-season.

Trend 2: Valentine’s Day

Did you know that Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest dining nights of the year? In January 2024 Toast surveyed 850 U.S. adult diners ages 25 and older and found that 52% of respondents always go out to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day.4 Moreover, the month-over-month data here leads us to believe that these love birds are going out to enjoy steak or pasta dinners and finishing their nights off with dessert. It’s a holiday, so calories don’t count, right? Overall, pasta sales increased by 11%, steak by 12%,  and dessert sales by 13% compared to January. 

Trend 3: Lent’s meatless options 

We also found that, in February, vegan and vegetarian items grew in sales by 10% compared to January. Plant-based diets have increased in popularity over the past few years with about 4% of Americans identifying as vegetarian and 1% as vegan. However, February also kicked off Lent, a 40-day period before Easter that holds significance in the Catholic Church and other Christian traditions. During Lent, many participants refrain from eating meat on Fridays and some steer clear of meat altogether for the entire 40 days. Therefore, this may have contributed to the increase in vegan and vegetarian food sales. 

February is also only the second month of the year and consumers may still be sticking to their New Year’s resolutions. As the seasons shift, so do food preferences. 

Trend 4: Seasonal shift in food preferences  

February can sometimes feel like the beginning of a new season. Some places start experiencing warmer weathered days and people begin to get excited for spring. Food trends can greatly reflect this shift. For example, in February, soups/stew sales were down by 4%, and ramen/noodle sales were down by 3% compared to January food sales. As we start moving away from winter, people don’t crave those warm, comforting foods as often and the data here reflects this notion. 

What else is happening?

So that was February 2024 in a nutshell, but what else is happening in the industry? Check out these related resources below to stay up to date with the industry:

And we’ll see you next month for March month-over-month data! 

Methodology

1Toast analyzed transactions on the Toast platform from January 1, 2024, to February 29, 2024, to determine the popularity of dishes labeled “salads, bowls, nachos, tacos, burgers, chicken tenders, roast chicken, fries, quesadillas, sandwiches, sushi, BBQ, burritos, desserts, enchiladas, pizza, cheese, omelette, pasta, wings, rice, steaks, dumplings, curry, ramen/noodles, soups/stews and vegan/vegetarian.” Toast then compared the average volume for the month of January 2024 to the average volume for February 2024. Results shown are the top five and bottom five movers for the categories listed. 

2This report, powered by Toast, uncovers key trends across the restaurant industry through aggregated sales data from all 30 U.S. cities that host an NFL football team. 

3Toast analyzed transactions on the Toast platform from January 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023, to determine the popularity of food items and alcoholic beverages. Toast then compared the 2023 daily average volume with the average volume for February 14, 2023.

4Toast conducted a blind survey on this topic of 850 U.S. adults ages 25 and older on January 24, 2024. Respondents were not made aware that Toast was fielding the study. Using a standard margin of error calculation, at a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of error on average is +/- 3 - 5%. Benchmark Insights are not to be construed as recommendations or professional advice of any kind. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained in Benchmark Insights. Toast does not guarantee that you will achieve any specific results, and you should consult with your professional advisors for advice specific to your circumstances, including without limitation with respect to any purchasing decisions. Toast reserves the right at any time to add, delete or modify Benchmark Insights or any data contained therein.

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