What Drives Consumers to Drive Industry Outcomes?
Many people remember leaving their offices at noon, walking to a nearby fast food place, ordering lunch and then either consuming it on the premises or returning to the office with it.
Those same people remember going out for dinner once a week and trying out the new restaurants as they went along. To many people today, this seems like something their parent would have done.
Definitions have changed over the years.
When we think of technology in the fast food industry, it’s more a case of the people changing the definitions or pushing the technology. Here’s what we mean.
Changes in Buying Habits
As the Baby Boomer generation comes of age, they are happily using technology for any number of reasons, among them making a little extra cash and ordering out for lunch.
Nearly everyone from Millennials to Baby Boomers has their nose in smart phones. This is how buying habits have changed. Why walk to a fast food outlet for lunch when they’ll deliver? Why go out to eat at night, when the restaurant or a third party delivery company will deliver whatever type food you wish right to your sofa?
Going out to fetch dinner is becoming a thing of the past. Consumers want whatever they want to be delivered to them via handy apps on their smart phones.
A New Definition of Convenience
Once upon a time, the drive-through was the epitome of convenience. It then moved from fast food to banking to dry cleaning and pharmacies. As technology changes, though, it brings a higher level of convenience to the table.
Today’s definition of convenience seems to be moving towards consumers making as little effort as possible in commercial exchanges. Retail, food and other businesses are streamlining their operations so consumers are putting in very little if not any effort. “On-demand” is the key word today, with convenience meaning “I want it, so you should bring it”.
If convenience and on-demand are the catch phrases of the day, then customization is their descriptor. A consumer wants fresh foods, locally sourced in addition to non-GMO meats and produce. They demand nutritional viability in their snacks. These foods must be locally sourced, nutritional and prepared for on the go consumption.
With the proliferation of prepared meal kits, it’s no surprise that fast food is expected to customize our consumer’s experience.
The Changing Workforce
If definitions have changed of consumers and convenience, then the definition of a worker has changed as well.
More people are working from home than ever before. Many are heading to places like Starbucks for the free Wi-Fi. Meeting like-minded people, grabbing a bite and getting some work done is the modern definition of the telecommuter.
Restaurants offering free Wi-Fi garner their fair share of consumers, but this is only a stopgap measure in the food wars. The reason is personalization.
When a home worker can simply hit the fridge for a smashing sandwich on ciabatta bread, a cup of herbal tea and a peach, how can a fast food restaurant compete? Personalization.
A fast food restaurant with mobile apps that include the ability to personalize the menu is the restaurant that keeps its consumers coming back for more.
The change in consumer buying habits has boiled down to a distrust of processed, pre-packaged and fast foods. The horror stories of “food” that wasn’t actually food forced consumers to demand fresh alternatives, non-GMO and non-growth hormone products.
To pacify them, restaurants and now even fast food places have succumbed to the fresh food extravaganza. This is why technology in the fast food industry isn’t as important as what it produces.
This is how consumers are driving outcomes.