KANSAS CITY — Overall, the outlook for bakery sales to the restaurant industry remains cautiously promising. Technomic forecasts bakery shipments to foodservice will reach $16.1 billion in 2023, fully recovering from the 20% drop during the pandemic. However, David Henkes, senior principal and head of strategic partnerships for Technomic, said the rebound has had its ups and downs.

Technomic data indicate restaurant sales have decelerated since peaking last summer, highlighting the fragility of the foodservice sector, which has seen its sales supported more by the sustained popularity of off-premises traffic than on-premises dining. The research is bolstered by a CNBC/Momentive poll, conducted in March, that reported more than half of Americans have cut back on dining out because of rising prices and may continue to do so if high prices remain. That’s not surprising.

During the recent American Bakers Association convention, Mr. Henkes indicated there is a strong correlation between discretionary income and eating out. Consumer perceptions of baked foods also have taken a hit from the pre-pandemic period.

A Technomic survey showed an 11-percentage point drop in consumers who say baked foods are somewhat or very important when deciding on where to eat out. Mr. Henkes suggested that decline poses a creative challenge for the baking industry.

“How do we reestablish baked goods across dayparts as a vital part of that foodservice purchase for a lot of consumers?” he asked. “In many ways, this is an opportunity to be figured out to recapture and recreate some of that excitement.”

It’s time to accept that challenge with product innovation.