Retail food consumers are dynamic not static. While food retailers are a fragmented group. Consumers on the other hand have a plethora of universal commonalities that indicate just where they may be headed next when buying food. One of the commonalities is speed of service. Today consumers want what they want when they want it. Breakfast for lunch or Dinner for Breakfast as an example however they all want it fast.
McDonalds Café is an example of expanding day-parts and menu re-alignment with a focus on beverage and “snacking”. While they call it snacking, consumer research informs us that consumers are searching for portion, price reductions. This is driven in large part by the confluence of obesity messaging and the economy. Many convenience stores have focused on price and reduced portions size combined with speed of service to offer $0.99 take-away food while capturing traditional QSR’s consumers. In fact Sheetz now calls itself a chain restaurant that sells gas. We agree Sheetz is a food retailer selling fresh prepared food more important consumers believe it as well.
While consumer are not all focused on price Panera Bread is beginning to offer drive thru’s service because it complements their catering and take-Away business which is near 50% of sales. Consumers do not take steps backward. They have grown accustom to quick service yet have a test for “better for you” food and Panera Bread fits that bill.
Kroger is now testing convenience stores again research highlights that the overriding universal commonality in food retailing that consumers desire for speed of service. It’s simple smaller store less time to get in and out. Whole Foods has reduced the size of all new stores to 30,000SF while increasing ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food.
Clearly retail foodservice channel disruptions are underway and lead by the consumer. Exactly the way it should be. Food retailers must react and focus on consumer commonalities for success. Migration Marketing helps legacy retailers create differentiation in a world where the line between restaurants and food retailers is growing even thinner.
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Steven Johnson is Grocerant Guru at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions, with extensive experience as a multi-unit restaurant operator, consultant, brand / product positioning expert and public speaking. Facebook.com/Steven Johnson, Linkedin.com/in/grocerant or twitter.com/grocerant