June 10, 2019

Foodservice Operators and Retailers Chase “Easy Fresh Food”

by tony treadway

According to Chicago-based research firm, Food Genius, 80% of Americans don’t know what they are having for dinner at 4 pm. This common thread of overworked and overstressed Americans seeking meal solutions that can at least be perceived as healthy, fresh and easy is driving the foodservice, online and retail industries.

First to access this pot of gold were online meal kit companies such as Blue Apron. Yet Blue Apron quickly lost its way, losing 90% of its stock value since its IPO and currently is recognized as one of the worst public offerings of the decade. The next generation of meal kits are a combination of fresh ingredients that can easily be prepared. Many are in partnership with supermarket retailers. Other supermarkets are creating their own meal kits in a mishmash of deli, produce and bakery products assembled hours from pick up and delivery instead of a day or two.

From off the shelf packages such as Broaster Chicken and Hunt Brothers Pizza for C-stores, to UberEats and GrubHub home delivery of restaurant food, everyone is trying to find meal solutions for a too busy America. The latest interanion are investments by Kraft/Heinz and Yum! Brands into GrubHub to jump line in access to products on menus or be first in line when consumers go to GrubHub for a restaurant choice.

For restaurant operators, many are scaling down new restaurant square footage to account for fewer dine-in customers and more emphasis their own take-out options. For supermarket retailers, there is opportunity to steal share from restaurants through fresh meal kits or completed hot meals for pick up by consumers on their way home from work along with regular grocery list items.

The winners in this rush for fresh, easy food are tech firms who can connect restaurant operators and retailers with consumers through apps and online solutions. Concurrently, tech firms are now offering software solutions for making operations more efficient and managing a labor force to reduce the high cost of turnover in staff. At recent trade shows for restaurant operators, as many as 60% of the exhibitors are tech firms, not food manufacturers.

Restaurants are being challenged from all sides with supermarkets and c-stores joining the online meal kit solution race. The opportunity for restaurants is to build their own irresistible brand that is driven by cravable menus and exceptional service that consumers can’t resist.

For example, a single Chick-Fil-A restaurant’s annual sales exceed single-unit sales of a McDonald’s, Starbucks and Subway combined. If you are going to be in the restaurant game, be the best at your brand, menu and service, and no matter the trend, you will be successful.

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