Foodservice Brief — December 2014
The world and foodservice-related enterprises like restaurants, manufacturers, and food retailers are changing at an ever-increasing pace. But just as much as many things change, others will remain the same. The fundamental pillars of good business still apply, though they are evolving, bringing new challenges and opportunities to the marketplace. In this fast-paced world, we have to recognize that consumer needs change steadily. Operators and their suppliers must stay in tune with these changes in order to drive their businesses forward.
Convenience remains high on the list of consumer needs. Portability, time-savings, and order accuracy are critical to consumers. The recent, unprecedented technology revolution allows restaurant operators to connect with people in new and distinctive ways by providing time-saving solutions. It is imperative that online marketing techniques be used to extend reach and retention of target customer groups, especially through the use of mobile applications.
2015 will bring an increased proliferation of mobile apps for ordering and payment. Technology will continue to make it faster and more efficient to:
- Pay via the mobile device
- Pre-order food and beverages
- Order meals from tablets
- Explore menu detail
- Review nutritional information
- Locate a restaurant
- Read a recommendation or restaurant review
- Find a deal or special offer
- Join and use a loyalty program
Value speaks directly to the benefits a product or service can add to a consumer’s life. The key for any operator is to increase average check by providing more value to the end user. Food quality remains the most important value driver when choosing restaurants and should be viewed as a cost of entry. Operators must go further, however, and deliver on customization and fresh ingredients, as these have become important drivers of the value equation, as well.
While focusing on these key factors, operators must take care to not neglect their value offerings or hurry to increase prices. Doing so may result in alienating a portion of an operator’s customer base, especially with the economy improving at a slow pace. To consumers, a bottom-dollar price alone does not a value make.
When is the price right for consumers? When is it not too expensive and not too cheap, but just right? In 2015, operators will need to add more value by offering their customers:
- The ability to customize
- More choices — portion size — right price
- Fresh ingredients
- Different preparation styles
- More focus on food quality
Value is really defined by the consumer, not the “great value” marketing messages. Operators need to provide a balanced value proposition with multiple price options. The bottom line is that operators must develop new and unique ways to create value for current and new customers.
Restaurant operators always seek innovative ways to remain top-of-mind among customers. Many operators do this with unique, creative menu offerings. Experimenting with new menu items extends beyond traditional American fare; consumers have become considerably more adventurous and willing to try new things. In 2015, there will be increased attention on offering more unique menu items and new twists on old favorites, while at the same time retaining customer favorites. Operators should seek to:
- Spice it up with different flavor profiles
- Use bolder flavors
- Introduce multi-cultural influences
- Try new twists on comfort foods
- Increase focus on protein offerings beyond traditional menu items
- Offer vegetarian options
- Emphasize natural and fresh
- Increase availability of portions for sharing
- Provide greater variety
Customer service extends to before, during, and after the dining experience. Good customer service provides an experience that meets customers’ expectations. It creates advantages for both customers and the restaurant operator. Customers benefit because service meets their needs. The restaurant operator benefits because satisfied customers are likely to become repeat customers and recommend the establishment. Good customer service is not easily achieved; it takes time to perfect. Delivering consistency and newness requires investment. Now more than ever, consumers expect restaurant operators to deliver added value by focusing on their specific needs. Looking forward, restaurant operators must address the needs of multiple consumer groups:
- Single diners — With more and more people choosing to dine out alone, understand what they are looking for: a table out of the way, a seat at the bar, social experience (conversation or left alone), and Wi-Fi.
- Families with kids — It’s key to increase appropriately-priced menu offerings, offer a kid-friendly environment, and broaden your kids’ menu offerings. This may require seating and menu changes.
- Millennials — These young consumers have different needs and higher expectations than their older counterparts. To remain relevant, marketers will need to invest money and resources in connection technologies that appeal to this group. Millennials want the world their way, and they want it now.
- Boomers and seniors — These diners desire a welcoming environment, more lighting, less noise, easy to read menus, comfortable seating, and personal attention. QSR operators need to pay attention to their in-store environment, since this group tends to eat more often in the restaurant rather than using take-out or drive-through, compared to other generational groups.
A changing, complex marketplace sometimes requires peeling back the layers and revisiting the basics. The new year surely will bring more changes, but if operators go back to the basics of understanding and focusing on customers, it will be a more successful and prosperous year.