UK: Five Eating Out Trends to Watch in 2018

London / UK. (npd) Market research of the NPD Group has identified five new trends that will shape Britain’s 57 billion GBP foodservice industry in 2018.

Power ahead with click + collect: Click + collect through smart phones is set to alter rapidly the way foodservice operators and consumers interact. It could reduce order and wait times for consumers and help operators serve more people per hour. The roll out of click + collect across the foodservice market will trigger wide-scale consumer adoption, particularly for tech-savvy millennials and Generation-Z consumers. Operators can expect higher sales and profits, and better customer data that could spawn more personalized offers.

Winners will need to create an irresistible click + collect offer. During peak periods, increased traffic will call for improvements in restaurant efficiency, particularly in order fulfillment. Click + collect customers will want to benefit from an ‘express lane’ experience so restaurant layouts may need reconfiguring and staff might need special training. Operators can use click + collect to drive traffic outside peak hours.

Invest in the best staff and impact your bottom line: Consumers love to have an emotional connection with foodservice brands. And staff can play a vital role here. Loyal consumers are also more likely to make recommendations and visit again. So, it makes sense for foodservice operators to invest in the best staff – and to provide the best training. The payback? Higher customer satisfaction, loyalty and company profits. Operators who invest in their staff will gain a commercial advantage.

Winners will be the companies that nurture, train and retain staff. Operators that hire great people will really stand out. And what better way is there to balance the march of technology across foodservice?

Make VIP status the new norm: Consumers are tired of the same old loyalty schemes. Savvy customers expect more than simple discounts and freebies. The next chapter will be about tiered and personalized foodservice loyalty. Loyalty schemes will aim to target their most valuable customers with ‘Premium’, ‘VIP-only’, ‘Exclusive’ or ‘Private’ offers to heighten brand appeal and drive visits, share, frequency and spend.

Winners will be the operators offering a simple yet fresh loyalty scheme that rewards the most valuable customer on a regular basis. Delivering the occasional, disruptive surprise will help drive short-term share gains and generate buzz and brand warmth.

Avoid broken brand promises: Never allow your brand to over-promise and under-deliver. Avoid a costly mismatch between consumer expectations and reality. Foodservice operators must ensure that product quality, service, support and marketing is in line with what they are promising to consumers. Don’t allow your customer’s restaurant experience to be marred by long wait times, poor staff training or a poor supply chain. The foodservice industry is intensely competitive and it’s all too easy to lose repeat business. There’s also the danger that consumers take to social media to complain about their experience.

Winners will be those operators that deliver on their brand promise. They will deliver an excellent product and service before the visit, during the visit and after the visit.

Share a recommendation: In the age of social media and smart phones, consumers love recommendations for places to eat or drink, and what to order when they choose an outlet. People turn to a variety of sources for recommendations: friends and family, online, marketing campaigns and even foodservice staff. Staff members who offer authentic recommendations will build meaningful rapport with customers. Technology and customer data will help tailor menu suggestions that are relevant to a customer’s mood, diet, hunger or reason for visiting.

Winners will be those operators who can help their customers make the best choice. Good staff training and the smart use of customer data will help operators present personalized recommendations, making customers feel valued and wanting to return.

Cyril Lavenant, Foodservice Director UK at the NPD Group, said: «The foodservice industry has demonstrated its creativity for years and many of the trends we see shaping the sector hinge on continuing to be innovative, on seeing opportunities and responding well. There’s huge potential for click + collect, for example, but success will depend on how well a foodservice responds to this trend. There’s also scope for developing the way in which a business nurtures, trains and retains staff. Operators can bring creativity to bear on tiered and personalized loyalty schemes, and on the trend for recommendations. But it’s also important to deliver on brand promise – never allow your brand to over-promise or under-deliver. Consumers will spot this quickly and if they feel disappointed they can spread the word faster than ever before on social media».