With the arrival of September, the lazy days of summer suddenly give way to a change in season but also to a change in attitude. Technically it’s still summer for a few more weeks, but somehow back to school also triggers a back-to-business reality. And just as students gear up to return to school primed to start a new year of learning, come September, restaurant operators are set for a host of new lessons of their own.
For the foodservice industry, the focus now turns to new strategies and planning for the upcoming busy fall season, punctuated by a flurry of seasonal holidays. For those eager to get started on the myriad details of holiday planning, we’ve recently launched a Fall & Festive Planner on foodserviceandhospitality.com.
Apart from the minutiae of running a restaurant, in these days of increased competition and higher costs, operators are now also being forced to learn new lessons on a daily basis — whether it’s impending legislation on menu labelling; the vagaries of fickle consumer behavior; the importance of effectively tapping into social media; or discovering the best practices to motivate staff. Through it all, the omnipotent threat of economic turbulence always looms in the background. Certainly, running a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. But operators can’t afford to get complacent; blithely believing today’s customer will forever patronize your business. After all, new competitors are always biting at your heels, eager to tap into your customer base — if you let them.
And, if that isn’t enough to keep them busy, operators need to better understand changing demographics as millennials’ eating and drinking habits are now fuelling changes in the marketplace. As we learn from this month’s NPD column, this group is forcing operators to rethink how they present their food and beverage offerings and deal with suppliers (see story on p. 11).
Driving further change is the cost-value equation. Today’s customers are easily seduced by lower prices and greater value but they also want the allure of innovative offerings, always on the prowl for incentives to make them spend their hard-earned money (see story on loyalty programs on p. 29). But as good as loyalty programs are at driving business, and they are, and as much as these programs help companies retain customers, we can’t forget that they are only one tool in an arsenal of many required to successfully navigate today’s complex foodservice landscape.
More than anything, with lines continuing to blur and competition intensifying daily, today’s operators need to be nimble enough to keep customers continually enamoured of everything they do. It’s about establishing a connection with them and keeping it strong regardless of the myriad changes going on. At the end of the day, the biggest lesson you can learn is if you’re not constantly changing, you’re stagnating.
Volume 48, Number 6