New players — including food trucks, retail meal solutions and meal kits — have emerged onto the scene, providing consumers with more options than ever before and fundamentally changing the foodservice landscape.
As new players come onto the scene, an operator’s competitive set may widen to include some or all of these new segments. It is vital for operators to understand how this explosion of consumer choice is impacting the industry and what it means for their brand. Foodservice businesses will need to step up their game to gain, or simply maintain, their share of sales. For example, a cafeteria at a college or office building may now compete with a food truck down the street or progressive vending machines. In this new environment, it’s not enough to differentiate against traditional competitors; operators must re-examine who their competitors are.
Keeping Up - To maintain sales, operators need to innovate and focus on a core concept and menu positioning. They should also utilize technology to target consumers through personalized ads or special offers. Operators can leverage tech-based loyalty programs that provide ample information on customers to drive repeat traffic and boost check averages.
Customer Loyalty - While customers may remain loyal to a favorite concept, what that loyalty looks like — the frequency of visits — may change as they patronize a wider variety of places. To win consumers’ dollars, operators need to differentiate and provide something that consumers can’t get elsewhere, be it in the menu, the ambiance or the overall experience.
Food Decisions - Understand your customers’ path to purchase. Dining decisions are complex and vary by brand. Each brand should evaluate their customers’ path to purchase and how it may change as consumers expand their foodservice horizons.
Mix It Up - The line between restaurants and retail segments will continue to blur. As retailers and restaurants continue to compete for foodservice share, they will start looking more like each other. For example, retailers are increasingly encroaching on restaurants dine-in occasions with upscale dine-in areas, while restaurants are rolling out new takeout and grab-and-go programs to offer greater convenience.