Foodservice must adapt to changing customer needs, say experts

By Lauren Houghton

- Last updated on GMT

Foodservice operators must stay in touch with trends
Foodservice operators must stay in touch with trends

Related tags Marketing

Foodservice operators can improve profits by responding to recent changes in customer needs and consumer trends, according to speakers at Horizons’ latest Thought Leadership Forum.

Although eating out penetration and frequency has been up in 2014, the average spend per customer per visit is still below the level it was at pre-downturn.

“This is a very changing marketplace,” said Emma Read, Horizons’ director of marketing and business development.

“The challenge is to stay in touch with customer needs and be able to adapt to the way the sector is moving.”

Consumer trends

At the forum, Horizons explained that its research shows there are opportunities for foodservice operators to improve profits by looking at trends such as snacking and breakfast.

It has also noticed that smaller business units have been attracting footfall by opening in locations such as shopping malls and transport hubs, where there is a great deal of traffic.

Senior vice president of McDonald’s UK Paul Pomroy gave a talk at the forum on the changes McDonalds has made to its business recently after researching a few consumer trends. The company has added to its menu, extended its opening hours to 24 hours a day in some outlets, and given its restaurants a ‘fresh look’ as a result of customer demands.

“You have to keep changing,” explained Pomroy. “Competition entering the market keeps us on our toes and the business sees this as a good thing.”

Importance of pricing

Modern consumers are used to being charged different prices depending on time of day or location, as it happens with hotel rooms, airlines, railway tickets and voucher schemes. Experts at the forum raised this issue of price differentiation and how it can drive turnover for foodservice.

“The important thing is to deliver the right product, to the right customer, at the right price, through the right distribution channel,” explained Kate Ringham from the Oxford School of Hospitality Management.

John Oakes, chief operating officer of RMS Revenue Management Solutions agreed, and said it was important to recognise the impact of pricing on each customer’s behaviour.

“There is a strong link between pricing strategy and the customer’s attitude towards your brand,” he said.

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