Compete Globally by Getting to Know the Local Consumer

With the recent downturn in restaurant traffic in the U.S., some operators are looking for creative ways to reenergize their business. Of these operators, those with an international presence would do well to know the changing wants and needs of restaurant goers abroad. Diners in Europe only purchase 22% of their meals away-from-home, while those in the Middle East eat out 40% of the time. These consumers clearly use different standards when deciding what to eat, and it’s important to study these patterns in order to grab dining dollars around the world. Here are four global consumer megatrends from Technomic’s recent Global Restaurant Leadership Conference explaining what patrons are after in different regions:

  • Eye on ingredients. The U.S. is not the only region where definitions of what is and is not healthy are rapidly changing. More than anything, most diners around the world are seeking premium or high-quality food. The only exception is the Middle East, where the demand for organic options is highest. Improving an international brand’s food quality across locations can be expensive and cumbersome, but more than half of respondents worldwide claimed they would be willing to pay more for premium items.
  • The value equation. In fact, consumers in each country are likely to say the overall value of a dish is more important than its price. Each individual measures value differently, but key considerations when judging value are quality, health and the ambiance of a restaurant. Specifically, most diners are looking for healthy items made with fresh ingredients in a quiet, relaxing atmosphere.
  • Healthy evolution. Different regions also have different standards for what makes food healthy and what it means to lead a healthy lifestyle. Americans trying to cut excess out of their diet tend to skip desserts and appetizers, where staying healthy is less about nutrition and more about avoiding unhealthy add-ons. Conversely, 63% of diners in Asian countries consider an item’s nutritional content most important when considering its impact on their health. Asian patrons are also the most likely to opt for nutritional sides.
  • Tech-enabled experiences. Asian consumers aren’t just looking for nutritious food. They’re also more inclined to use technology when ordering. Nearly 70% of respondents in Asia said they would like more restaurants to integrate technology into their ordering process. Three-fifths (58%) of survey participants in the Middle East take photos of their food. Worldwide, consumers want to fully integrate tech into their dining process by paying with a mobile app, taking photos of the food and sharing the photos with friends online.

AS I SEE IT, operators who sacrifice quality of ingredients and ignore trends in technology are probably not giving their customers what they want, even if offering lower prices. Brands also need to be transparent about where their food is sourced and how it’s made. If a chain already sources fresh ingredients with a sustainable supply chain, the increased transparency can only help business. If companies are wary of sharing this information with their customers, it’s time to make a change. Above all, remember that what works in one market may not work in another. An app rollout might be well-received in Asia, where 37% of restaurant-goers pay via app, but it probably won’t see the same level of success in Europe or Australia, where only 9% pay with an app. Operators should listen to what customers are saying online and in the restaurant, then track where they are spending money and move to inhabit that space.

Note: This content originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Technomic’s Foodservice Digest newsletter

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Darren Tristano

Darren Tristano is President of Technomic Inc. Since 1993, he has led the development of Technomic’s Information Services division and directed multiple aspects of the firm’s operations.

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