The second annual Canadian Foodservice Summit took place at the Toronto Reference Library on May 9, 2017. Nearly 200 people attended the all-day event, presented by The NPD Group in partnership with Foodservice and Hospitality magazine.
The importance of understanding the changing consumer was an emerging theme. Consumers are more educated in terms of the type of food they’re consuming, so there needs to be better understanding around their shifting behaviours and demands — the basic fundamentals around how people shop and what influences their decision-making process. Foodservice players need to understand multiple areas — stats, the various touchpoints with the consumer, feedback, demographic shifts, macro trends, market research — and use the available tools to form a complete picture of today’s consumer.
A MATTER OF CONVENIENCE
Convenience has been the most influential change in the way we consume food. From a restaurant standpoint, the convenience factor over the last 50 years spawned a new segment in the marketplace, particularly with quick-service restaurants. But when you look at convenience as a whole — particularly in a society where fewer people are getting their driver’s licenses and more people are car-sharing and where people are staying in as opposed to going out, — you see that the convenience model has shifted from going to the drive-thru to actually having food come to you. And technology has been important in facilitating that shift.
The “owning-the-zone” piece speaks to understanding your consumers’ lifestyles and behavioral habits and fine-tuning your marketing message to address those niche areas of opportunity, as well as creating reasons for consumers to want to go out of the house and pick your brand instead of your competitors’.
When it comes to innovation, operators need to look at how they can create growth opportunities and inspire excitement. Perhaps it’s something as simple as adding bacon to a Big Mac, or expanding beyond the company’s key areas of focus and the positioning of the brand. We need to think about how we can access our food and the types of menu items available to us. With McDonald’s moving into the delivery model and meal kits being delivered to homes, these kinds of ideas can change consumers’ perception of a brand.
STATE OF THE MARKET
Consumers are always going to need to eat, so food is a stable market. But, while the food industry is going to continue to be a good area, the amount of money consumers are spending on food isn’t increasing — it’s one of the first areas people look to cut back on in their budgets, especially given the record levels of debt with which consumers are straddled. That’s where we’ll start to get discounting and dealing going on, just to win that foodservice dollar.
The market is going to remain stable, but don’t expect to see double-digit growth or major double-digit declines. The players that are strong, innovative and strategic are going to grow. The weak players are going to be weeded out and the cost of entry is going to be higher — a challenge for new brands.
WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG?
A growing number of manufacturers and operators still view the industry as commodity-based and there’s a great deal of room for organizations to be increasingly strategic in terms of planning, development and understanding of the marketplace. Surprisingly, a lot of companies in this industry rely on gut feelings.
The more strategically everyone works together, the more beneficial it is to the industry overall. Right now, not everyone is working strategically enough — they just want to sell more pop or move more product.
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