More and more Millennials are eating on the go. This is a generation of people who never have enough time: whether they’re working two jobs, hunting for a new apartment, or just juggling their busy social lives, there’s always something to do. Fast food just keeps getting faster as their schedules fill up.
In a world where that urgent email won’t wait for the work day to begin, diners can’t always take the time to cook – or even to sit down at a restaurant. Last year, we all heard the shocking news that in 2014, Millennials spent 44% of their food dollars on eating out. But more and more of these sales are coming from takeout, delivery, and other off-premise dining. Off-premise dining brought in more than $223 billion in sales in 2015, and that number is only climbing as more restaurants pick up the pace.
As the lives of diners change, so does the speed and accessibility of restaurant service. Here are three big ways restaurants are speeding things up to let every diner have a taste, even if they only have a few free minutes to munch in between meetings.
Even Quicker Service
72% of Americans usually visit a quick service restaurant for lunch – but only 25% of them will go to a restaurant on a very busy work day. On the other hand, 44% of respondents will have their midday meal at a full service restaurant. Full service restaurants are adapting to offer more quick-service offerings like a to-go window, or pre-made meals available during breakfast and lunch hours.
If your restaurant is in a busy commercial area, you can expect to serve customers who work nearby. This is a great opportunity to form long-term relationships with loyal fans. Whether you offer sandwich delivery directly to their desks, or you have Shirley’s coffee waiting for her on Monday morning, there are countless ways you can show them their business is important.
Matthew Griffith of the Rewards Network writes about the paradox that is developing in American eating habits. On the one hand, diners continue to spend more money eating out than they do on groceries. On the other hand, we’re seeing an increase in meals eaten at home – a number now reported as 5 meals a week.
Griffith explains this with data from the NPD Group, in which “consumers reported that less than 60% of dinners eaten at home are actually cooked there. This points to a rapid increase in take-out and delivery from the growing fast casual sector, as well as quick service and casual establishments.”
This data may be complex, but the takeaway is simple: restaurants stand to profit from offering takeout and delivery to a growing number of consumers. Online ordering is easily the most cost-effective way to reach the most guests.
Meal kits have been around for a while, and they’ve never been more popular. Last year, this industry sold between $1 and $1.5 billion in meals, and experts predict the market will reach $4 billion in the near future, and go up to $36 billion by 2026. And it’s not just meal kits – nearly ⅓ of customers from around the world said they’d be willing to buy groceries and household goods online.
A few years ago, some innovative restaurateurs took this trend even further, delivering food and beer to picnics in Central Park. Today, companies like HelloFresh are focusing on a growing demand for meal kits in suburbia. CEO Ed Boyes told QSR Magazine that his customers like the convenience of mail-order meal kits because they eliminate the stresses of meal planning and shopping – which is especially important for parents of young children.
Restaurants can keep up with the changing pace of diners’ tastes, but they must also adapt to their demands. Understanding the needs and time limitations of diners is a blueprint for higher revenue and more sales, especially to time-strapped Millennial and Generation Z consumers.