SSP Group: What are the needs of modern F+B customers?

London / UK. (ssp) British SSP Group PLC, a leading operator of food and beverage outlets in travel locations worldwide, has released the results of a new study on the needs of the modern F+B customer in the travel sphere.

Time pressure, the need for convenience, and value for money came out as the top concerns driving customers’ choices when they travel, as they have done for a number of years. Wellbeing and sustainability are growing in importance, but price, convenience and quality remain stronger drivers to actually purchase. Consumers are increasingly reliant on digital. They expect to receive information instantly, and for things to happen seamlessly.

The research also pinpointed seven key customer segments, defined by unique attitudes and behaviours. These groups, which exist across all geographical markets and channels, range from «aspirational foodies» who seek to explore new options while keeping an eye on what they are spending, to «mainstream fans» who look for well-known brands that provide value for money and something the whole family will enjoy.

The research revealed five major trends that are shaping consumer behaviour:

  • Customers that are eager to travel now see F+B as an integral part of their holiday experience: Over half (52 percent) of leisure customers see eating and drinking at an airport as an essential part of their holiday experience. What’s more, as travel has returned to «normal», 83 percent of travellers now say they’re more likely to purchase food and beverage in the airport.
  • There is a continued increase in digital competency across all demographics. Digital services are important to customers to simplify their customer journey: 1 in 5 travelling consumers want to be able to order digitally.
  • Sustainability and wellbeing have grown in importance to customers: 1 in 5 say they choose more ethical or sustainable options. Globally, more than two-thirds of travellers state healthy F+B options are important to them when travelling. However, customers are also looking for value, healthy options, and quality, so these factors must play a strong part in the mix.
  • It remains important to have a tiered offer approach to pricing: A third say that value for money is now a key motivation when choosing an F+B outlet. However, 40 percent say they’re willing to pay more for the best quality food and drink and it is important products are available that cater for customers’ different price needs.
  • There is still work to be done on closing the gap on the high-street: The travel sector has to operate in a more complex environment and customers have a heightened sense of self, making some customers more stressed and others more indulgent.

Angela Moores, chief customer officer of SSP Group, said that the new project demonstrated SSP’s curiosity and commitment to really trying to understand customers. «The tangible nature of the insights we’ve collected and the work we’re doing, as a result, means the business decisions we make and the propositions we create are firmly rooted in the needs of our customers. Although bigger isn’t always better, the scale of this research means our results are more robust and gives us greater confidence in how we respond to them.»

SSP has published a whitepaper detailing more findings from this study available to download here (see download link at the bottom of the page).

SSP’s «Food Travel Insights Survey», the largest customer survey in the company’s history, was based on interviews with 18,000 guests across 25 markets, collecting around three million data points. It was conducted by Clear from the Saatchi group – the research consultancy that has worked on this study since its inception in 2007. The research covered topics from digital to sustainability, health, and wellness, and more generally post-Covid attitudes, providing a view of customers’ preferences and what is important to them when buying food and beverages in travel settings, as well as how this differs by consumer segment, geography and channel.