Eating in is the new disruptor for foodservice, and it goes beyond delivery and take out. Driven by multiple factors ranging from cost per person to health concerns to uniqueness of experience, new services are stepping in and making it even easier to eat at home. The good news is that for foodservice operators who are able to adjust their approach, there are opportunities waiting to be exploited. But it will require a huge shift in thinking, and operators will need to rethink their entire value proposition if they are to achieve growth in the future. Those who ignore consumers’ emerging needs will do so at their peril.
Five years ago, Millennials were eating out more often than their Gen X and Boomer predecessors, but as they begin to have families a change is occurring in their dining habits where more meals eaten at home for convenience’s sake. Concerns about health are driving more made-at-home meals, and grocery stores are beginning to edge in on fast food by expanding to include entire hot counters that offer much more than just roasted chicken. Economic uncertainty also makes eating out less appetizing when raising a family or saving to buy a home, and research validates the fact that Millennials are eating out less frequently due to cost. However, on-the-go lifestyles are evermore unforgiving, and surely not everyone is going home to cook a meal from scratch every night?
As everyone knows, ordering take-out or delivery through mobile apps has made eating in easier than ever before, but the enormous success of this disruptive force simply points to the fact that it has filled an equally enormous gap for consumers. However, a closer look reveals that take-out alone will not meet customers’ needs, and already new options are appearing on the horizon. We feel strongly that family and child-friendly menu offerings and environments, healthier options that allow part of the food preparation to happen at home, and opportunities that make the food experience feel real and personal will be factors that determine success for foodservice operators. Some solutions may be as simple as updates to menu items, for example, to satiate the curious Millennial palate. Other changes require giant mental and operational leaps, such as launching sub-brand programs that offer partially-prepared meals for take-out. Realistically, addressing only one issue will be insufficient: operators need to understand the big picture is changing dramatically, and in response they need to step equally far out of the box.
As intimidating as industry-wide change can be, the possibilities are also exciting. For those who dare to seize the challenge with gusto, there are hungry customers waiting for a delicious, healthy food experience that excites them and brings them together with those whose company they most enjoy. Food is a necessity of life, but how we enjoy it is always changing. Here are some of the ways we think foodservice operators can best take advantage of what customers want now.