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Dessert Merchandising

Use the tabs to gather essential resources to plan your menu and learn valuable merchandising tips to make your desserts more appealing.




Creating a profitable dessert menu can be a challenge. However, results from consumer research can assist in answering some of the most common questions.


Best menu lineup by restaurant type:1

Fast Food Fast Food
Dessert Locations
Sit-Down
Dining
Cafeteria
Milkshakes, Malts, Floats Ice Cream
(soft serve)
Cheesecake Donuts
Ice Cream
(soft serve)
Milkshakes, Malts, Floats Milkshakes, Malts, Floats Ice Cream
(soft serve)
Ice Cream
with mix-ins
Ice Cream
with mix-ins
Ice Cream
(hard pack)
Fresh Cookies
Fruit Pies Sundaes Sundaes Cheesecake

Does my dessert menu really impact my sales?1

  • An effective dessert execution is essential, as a poor dessert experience can dissuade a customer from returning. In fact, 15% would not return after a poor experience.
  • Well over 50% of dessert sales are unplanned (64% in QSR, 86% in sit-down restaurants).1

When should I menu desserts most?1

  • 66% of consumers believe a dessert is OK to eat anytime
  • The number rises to 70% for women and 71% for ages 45 and above
Dinner 75%
After dinner 74%
Lunch 66%
Between lunch/dinner 65%
Between breakfast/lunch 39%

What types of dessert items should I offer?1

  • The most popular individual desserts are: ice cream, cheesecake, brownies and fresh fruit
  • Milkshakes/malts/floats, ice cream (with/without mixers) and donuts are popular across all foodservice channels
  • For fast food and sit-down restaurants, ice cream is a component of the most preferred dessert types
  • Overall, the most popular request is for healthier options and smaller portions

How should I describe my dessert offerings?1

Dessert descriptions and visual displays/photographs are key to success. Consumers note KEY DESCRIPTORS that resonate best with each consumption time:

Breakfast: fresh
Between lunch/dinner: portable, healthy
Lunch classic, calorie-controlled
Between lunch/dinner portable, refreshing
Dinner/after dinner indulgent, decadent, shareable

The importance of shakes and mix-ins:

Mix-ins, like OREO Cookie Pieces, are one way to add variety to drinkable dessert offerings.1
85% of consumers put mix-ins in their ice cream desserts.1
Mix-ins/toppings are also becoming more popular for pies, cakes and cookies.1



Consumer research shows that there is a lot you can do to get your customers thinking about dessert. Here are some ideas to make your desserts more appealing.


Must-Have Merchandise ImageIf you want to drive dessert sales, you’ve got to let your customers know that you use the brands that have always satisfied them.

Branded merchandising is available in a variety of formats. Click here to find out how you can access these custom merchandising materials.


Feature the flavors.

Customers love seeing their favorite flavor on the menu! It’s something that will surely catch their eye, so don’t forget to promote the flavors of your desserts.


Show and sell.

Use pictures, descriptive language and intriguing names to get your customers’ attention. Putting your desserts on a cart or tray is an easy way to entice customers to buy. Nothing is as irresistible as the sight and aroma of the actual desserts.


Encourage sharing.

Let’s face it: We have all been egged on to order dessert by spouses or friends before. Make sure you capture those sales by menuing desserts that can be shared.


Help them “leave room for dessert” with mini desserts.

Sometimes customers are tempted to taste but don’t want a whole dessert. Offer dessert samplers and mini dessert offerings to cater to customers looking for just a little dessert satisfaction.


Additional tips to help you sell more desserts:

  • Start with a compelling menu, one that includes the most popular dessert types and flavors. Click to view our dessert products.
  • Use seasonal, regional and branded ingredients.
  • Offer desserts to go to appeal to on-the-go consumers.
  • Include beverage suggestions that complement your dessert offerings.

Support a cause.

Offer desserts that are colored to represent a specific cause and donate part of your profits. Some well-known color associations are:

Pink = Breast Cancer Red = DARE/AIDS/Heart Disease Silver = Disabled Children

Gold = Childhood Cancer Purple = Lupus

Orange = Leukemia Yellow = Support the Troops


Celebrate national holidays throughout the year.

Offer festive desserts that are colored to represent specific holidays. For example:
Local Football Team Colors = Football Playoffs (January)
Pink/Red = Valentine’s Day (February)
Purple/Yellow = Mardi Gras (February/March)
Yellow/Green = Easter (March)
Green = St. Patrick’s Day (March)/Earth Day (April)
Pink = Mothers’ Day (May)
Red/White/Blue = Memorial Day (May)
Green/Red/Yellow = Cinco de Mayo (May)
Blue = Father's Day (June)
Red/White/Blue = Independence Day (July)
Red/White/Blue = Labor Day (September)
Orange = Halloween (October)
Brown = Thanksgiving (November)
Red/Green = Christmas (December)


Support a food holiday. Offer dessert specials on the following days:

June: National Dairy Month
July: National Ice Cream Month
October: National Dessert Month
National Cookie Month


Discover the types of treats and flavors customers prefer.

Top 5 Dessert Menu Items By Segment¹


Most Popular


Second


Third


Fourth


Fifth

Quick Service

Ice Cream

Cookie

Pie

Cake

Cheesecake

Fast Casual

Cookie

Cake

Ice Cream

Brownie

Pie

Casual Dining

Ice Cream

Cheesecake

Cake

Pie

Tiramisu

Family/Midscale

Ice Cream

Pie

Cake

Cheesecake

Cookie


¹ Mintel Menu Insights 2013

Top Menued Dessert Flavors¹


FLAVOR


% OF DESSERT MENUS
IT APPEARS ON

Chocolate

62.9

Vanilla

39.4

Caramel

26.3

Apple

26.1

Strawberry

21.5



Cinnamon, Caramel, Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter are growing in popularity,
appearing on 12% more dessert menus since 2008.¹



Top 5 Dessert Fruits¹

Apple

Strawberry

Banana

Raspberry

Cherry


Top 3 Dessert Nuts¹

Pecans

Almonds

Walnuts


Regional Dessert Trends²
Dessert preferences around the country are as distinct as the regions themselves.

Region Favored Flavors Preferred Desserts

Northeast

Apple and Peanut Butter

Cake, Cannoli Pudding and Tiramisu

South

Banana, Chocolate, Cinnamon and
Pecan

Cheesecake, Cobblers, Pie and Sopapilla

Midwest

Chocolate, Cinnamon and Pecans

Brownie, Cookies and Dessert Bars

West

Banana

Crème Brûlée, Flan and Ice Cream


² Datassential MENUTRENDS, April 2013

1. Northstar Research Partners, Desserts A & U & Segmentation Study, November 2008.
Dessert Merchandising