They’re at it again. Millennials are constantly influencing our perceptions and reshaping the way our world works, including how we enjoy dining and health experiences. Their interests in technology and sustainability are leading manufacturers, distributors, and even restaurants to reexamine their products and services.
This persuasive generation—which includes young adults between 18 and 34—knows exactly what they want and how they want it. They’re not afraid to ask for it or even boycott it if it’s not how they like it. They are definitely a social crew so they prefer engaging experiences and they don’t mind paying for quality. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials have officially surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest living generation. Given the dominating size of this group, it’s no surprise their eating habits and retail choices are setting the stage for the future of foodservice.
Foodservice Companies Evolve to Meet Consumer Demands
According to research and analysis from Technomic, these are some of the biggest shifts in the foodservice industry being driven by millennials, who are the primary consumer today.
Increasing prices for protein and consumer demand for reducing waste have spurned a creative revolution in the kitchen in many restaurants. Menus now feature dishes that use entire animals as well as the whole vegetable from roots to stalks. Shake Shack, known for high-quality natural ingredients and its mantra, Stand for Something Good®, has a WastEd Juice Pulp Cheeseburger that’s made from the vegetable pulp leftover from juicing. Entrees are often customized daily based on the catch of the day. Chefs in many restaurants such as True Food Kitchen are providing a wide selection of healthy dishes intended to give your body the best nutrients while delighting your palate.
Local and Humane Sourcing and High Quality
Another trend in foodservice that translates into better business is local and humane sourcing. Consumers want to know where food was grown or raised, as well as if it is safe to eat. With the high number of recalls and media coverage of tainted food, 36% of consumers are worried about “chemicals” in their food, according to a recent survey. They are demanding transparency and want GMO ingredients labeled or, better yet, eliminated. In fact, 7 in 10 consumers claim they would be more likely to purchase GMO-free food and 34% would be willing to pay more for it. Along with its faith-based values, Chick-fil-A has responded to market demands by providing healthy menu items such as a kale and broccolini salad and organic apple juice and pledged to switch to cage-free eggs. Until its recent safety issues, Chipotle had proven to competitors its promise of “food with integrity” such as naturally raised proteins, ingredients sourced from local farms, and hormone-free dairy products could not only meet customers’ demands but was profitable as well.
Many more restaurants are adding online ordering and delivery services so consumers can get prepared food at home. Order-and-pay apps as well as UberEats and Amazon are expanding the cuisine you can get delivered to your door. This is a growing segment of the foodservices industry that many brands (Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks) are experimenting with or expanding (Panera Bread, 7Eleven, Chipotle).
Investments in Rebranding by Established Brands
McDonald’s has invested more than $1 billion to remodel its stores to try to compete with Starbucks and Panera Bread, while also dabbling in healthier menu options, increased personalization, and adapting to local preferences. California Pizza Kitchen has introduced a globally inspired menu with seasonal dishes, as well as hand-crafted cocktails infused with fresh juices to accompany a new look for its restaurants.
Although we are seeing an accelerated movement toward healthier, sustainable, higher-quality products and more dynamic eatery experiences, many foodservice leaders are still wavering in their progress to get on board—mainly because they don’t know how. According to YPulse, in the last five years, the top 25 food and beverage companies lost $18 billion in market share due to their lack of information during a time when the market craves truth and transparency.
Hiring executives (of any generation) that have the adaptability necessary to respond and thrive in today’s changing market is critical to your company’s success.
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