FOODSERVICE CONSUMER ATTITUDE TRENDS:<br />Convenience Top Order for Younger Diners

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FOODSERVICE CONSUMER ATTITUDE TRENDS:<br />Convenience Top Order for Younger Diners

Foodservice operators serving up convenience are poised to do well in this post-recession economy. Although value has become the mantra for many diners, a new report from Mintel suggests that convenience still resonates with them, especially those under age 34.

Over half of younger adults rank a foodservice establishment’s proximity to their workplace as very important/important when selecting where to eat (62 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds and 55 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds vs. 41 percent of all respondents). The ability to order online ahead of time is also essential to young, time-strapped consumers (31 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds and 24 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds vs. 19 percent overall). The younger demographics also rank extended hours (i.e., late-night) and speed of service highly in their selection process.

“Though value remains important to diners in this economy, our survey reveals convenience may be equally as important,” noted Chris Haack, senior analyst at Mintel. “Young adults and young families, especially, are pressed for time, making restaurants an easy and often necessary solution for meals. As foodservice establishments struggle for revenue, improving convenience may help them get diners in the door.”

While 43 percent of respondents told Mintel they’ve cut spending on delivery and takeout this year, about one in six 18-to-34-year-olds say they’re spending more on these convenient services. In the past three months, this sector was twice as likely as the general population to have ordered delivery. Approximately 30 percent of them picked up food, compared to 20 percent of all respondents.

Nearly half  (49 percent) of 25-to-34-year-olds, many of whom work full-time and/or have children, say they dine at casual restaurants because they’re too tired to cook, while 40 percent say they do so because they have no time to prepare a meal. This compares to 40 percent and 30 percent of all respondents, respectively.

Another study, this by The NPD Group, sheds new light on the concept of convenience when it comes to Americans making food choices. In its latest food and beverage market research, NPD finds that 72 million adult consumers — nearly one in three adults — are “Convenience Consumers,” but their needs are varied depending on their life stages and other characteristics.

According to the NPD Report, “The Many Facets of Convenience,” convenience consumers, who attitudinally place a premium on convenience, tend to fall into one or more of the following groups: younger adults, males, singles who have never been married, single-member households, parents with a young child 5 or under, or lower-income households. Convenience consumers feel their lives are hectic and rushed, and that a dinner taking more than 30 minutes to prepare is inconvenient. While they believe convenient foods are more expensive, less healthy and don’t taste as good, they also indicate that “convenience is worth paying for.”

The NPD report, which examines how consumers define, value and fill their need for convenient foods throughout the day, also found that while convenience consumers differ attitudinally from other consumers in many ways, they are similar in some regards: two-thirds of them, on par with other consumers, say they enjoy cooking, and, like other adults, the majority of convenience consumers plan meals ahead of time.

“Convenience has been a buzzword in the food and beverage industry for a long time, but we found through our research that it’s not a one-size-fits-all concept,” said Ann Hanson, director of product development in NPD’s food and beverage unit. “Americans differ in how they define and value convenience. It’s important that food and beverage marketers differentiate the various meanings of convenience among their consumers and message accordingly … or they’ll miss the target.”