NPD: Foodservice Consumers Will Seek New Level of Convenience In 2018

Posted On: 1/2/2018

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CHICAGO -- U.S. foodservice industry growth will be flat to sluggish in 2018, according to Chicago-based research firm NPD Group, but there are certain changes taking place that will help to move the industry in a positive direction.  

NPD restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs said focusing on what consumers want will help foodservice marketers better align their strategies to maximize their relevance in 2018 and beyond.

NPD forecasts that in 2018, foodservice consumers will be more strapped for time, given that the demand for convenience is growing exponentially. With growth in the number of women entering the labor force, the need for convenience will only grow stronger, especially at dinnertime, the research firm predicts.

Consumers want someone else to do the cooking for them or to make it extremely easy for them to do so at home. As a result, delivered meals will be a source of growth, along with other convenient meal solutions, NPD predicts.
Consumers will be more apt to order digitally, via text messages and mobile apps, both of which have posted strong growth in 2017.  "One size does not fit all. It will be imperative to understand your customers' wants and needs from a technology standpoint," NPD emphasized. "Operating in a digital world is no longer a nice-to-have. It's now a must-have for most operators to drive traffic in a positive direction in 2018 and beyond."

Additionally, regardless of where the food is sourced or who prepares it, meals are increasingly being consumed at home, according to NPD. Thanks to a changing workforce, the ease of online shopping, and the boom in streaming entertainment, there are fewer reasons than ever to leave the house.

"The most popular place to eat out this year will be in the home. Nearly 50% of dinners purchased from a restaurant are consumed at home, and many in-home meals are a blend of dishes people prepare and ready-to-eat meals purchased at a foodservice establishment," according to NPD. "Operators can win by making it easier to get foods and beverages to the home."
Consumers will continue to expect top-notch customer service, which will continue to be a challenge for foodservice providers as the labor pool is shrinking. "A satisfied employee is crucial to both employee retention and making customers satisfied with their restaurant experience," the research firm stressed. "Greater attention must be paid to this initiative to hire and retain good employees; otherwise labor costs will escalate at a greater rate and customer satisfaction and revisit intend will decline."

In 2018, NPD predicts foodservice operators will respond to these trends in several ways, including offering value. "The world's largest restaurant chain will launch a new value-priced menu in the first quarter of 2018. The new lineup will offer items for $1, $2 and $3. Expect another round of value wars to begin. There is little doubt that the competition will monitor this value initiative and will likely follow suit with one of their own.

In 2018, limited time offers will play a greater role in restaurant operators' marketing initiatives, according to NPD. They will also encourage visits with loyalty programs using digital as a primary delivery tool.

"Engaging customers remains the key to every operator's success. In this challenging environment there are many examples of major chains, micro chains, and independents that thrive because they give consumers a great experience, superior food quality, and excellence in service," Riggs said. "In other words, they give people a reason to visit. These fundamentals are necessary for success across every industry segment -- today and beyond."