People are eating differently now from how they did in the past. You’ve seen it in your own product selection and sales trends.
There was a very interesting article in bon appétit, “The Defining Dozen: 12 Ways the American Diet Has Changed in the Last 30 Years.” The article’s author, Sophie Egan, has a new book, Devoured. It addresses “the most significant ways our national food culture has changed in the past 30 years.”
You’ll learn a lot just by reading the article. The book is now on my reading list. Here is my take on a few of Egan’s “Defining Dozen” with important implications for our industry.
- Snacking: Egan points out that, “Americans now work 200 more hours per year than they did in 1970.” What more could you ask for? Your potential shoppers are at your “stores” about one hour more each day. OPPORTUNITY: How have you changed your product selection to deal with all day snacking? You need AM and PM snacks. If you don’t offer it, they’ll bring it from home. Or worse than that, they’ll stop at a convenience store after they leave work or before they come in.
- Eating alone: The point gets in to single-person households. You should look at this differently. OPPORTUNITY: At lunch many people will go back to their desk or workspace. Are they leaving the lunch/break-room because it’s not an appealing place to eat? Are the tables and floor clean? How about the microwave oven?
- People don’t cook: There is a sales angle here. It also relates to #2 above. OPPORTUNITY: Why not offer take-home meals to be re-heated at home?
- Food at the office: Extended work hours have changed the way we eat. Not many of your clients can afford to offer free food, beverages and snacks (the way many tech companies do). OPPORTUNITY: Go to your clients with a “how to” plan to upgrade and expand the menu offering in all categories. Use it as a way to renegotiate your contract to reduce commission rates.
- Global cuisines matter: Egan notes, “Two-thirds of us now eat a greater variety of cuisines from around the world than we did just five years ago, according to recent research from the National Restaurant Association. The top three cuisines are Italian, Mexican, and Chinese…” OPPORTUNITY: How have you adapted your food menu to offer a broader selection of international foods? Can you find international food items that double as snacks and can be eaten with one-hand?
In the past 30 years our industry had to deal with fewer and smaller workplace locations to serve. At the same time, eating habits have changed, in many ways quite dramatically.
Keep your eyes focused on these trends. Look beyond this list, too. Pay attention to local developments. Remember that each location is different. You’re serving a range of populations – people who are younger, older, from different ethnic backgrounds with diverse regional taste preferences, etc.
If you adapt successfully you can win increased sales and profits.
After all, it comes down to selling more stuff.