As we digest the recent news that Amazon is buying Whole Foods, there's another important statistic the foodservice industry needs to consider. According to the USDA, for the first time in our nation's history, food spending away from home has surpassed food spending at home.
A big part of this increase is the fact we're in a new golden age of foodservice. All across the country, consumers are looking for higher quality and more variety. Food halls, farmers markets, specialty grocers, food trucks, pop up restaurants, and other types of foodservice operations have become commonplace in our culinary lexicons.
In the last 60+ years, restaurant spending has grown from about a quarter of all food spending to more than half, and this growth rate is twice as much as other types of retail spending.
It's not all good for restaurants, though. In a recent article in The Atlantic, our new golden age of restaurants is compared to our current golden age of television. With so many options to choose from, ratings and restaurant success are under attack from so much competition. No where has this been more true than in the recent fast casual trends.
The competition isn't just within similar concept styles, either. There's been a not-so-subtle blurring of the lines in foodservice, with convenience stores becoming more like QSRs, coffee shops becoming more like restaurants, fine dining styles becoming more casual in nature, and on and on.
New types of foodservice operations are making inroads with new types of consumers. Grocery stores are providing prepared foods. Food trucks and farmers markets are becoming culinary destinations. And even hospital cafeterias are turning into lunch spots for people who work in nearby offices.
What about technology? It certainly is showing impact in this culinary golden age, as delivery services are becoming more and more prevalent. Some restaurants are even "delivery only" with famous chefs like David Chang getting into the mix with his Ando concept.
So what does all this mean from a foodservice marketing perspective?
We always talk about buyer personas, how it's important to interview and define what our ideal buyers look like. Who is your target audience? What are their challenges and concerns? Where do they go for information on how to solve those challenges, and what are the commonalities between those information sources?
The bottom line is our buyer personas are changing as our foodservice concepts change. As one format blurs into another, so too are the challenges of those operating hybrid concepts.
For companies that work with us, we've already outlined these different buyer personas, from school nutrition professionals to hotel F&B executives to foodservice in business and industry. For companies that don't work with us or haven't defined their ideal target audiences, it's time to do that now more than ever.
Just consider the trends above. Over the last few years, the lines have blurred, and this will only continue as competition becomes harder and harder. As you define your foodservice buyer personas, keep in mind they are blurring, too.