We want it now!

The Convenience of Quality Products

In today’s world, consumers are looking for means of simplifying their lives without having to give up quality. We have seen the trend of retailers like Kwik-Trip and Walgreens expanding their offerings to leverage convenience to the consumer. They are saving consumers the hassle of stopping at a grocery store by allowing them to buy groceries at the same location they buy gas or prescriptions. When examining the industry, The Food Institute estimates that in 2015, $17 billion was spent for groceries at warehouse clubs and supercenters, another $6 billion at other food retailers like butchers, bakers and specialty food stores, approximately $1.5 billion at drug stores, and nearly half a billion online.

Serving the consumer’s quest for convenience and quality food, restaurants that offer fast casual dining like Shake Shack or Chipotle began to gain in popularity. They use fresh ingredients sourced locally and offer their food in a fast, convenient manner that is familiar to traditional fast-food eaters. The market for fast casual food of this nature, has grown by 550 percent since 1999, more than ten times the growth seen in the fast food industry over the same period according to the data from market research firm Euromonitor. According to Technomic, there are at least 10 different markers of restaurants that fall within the category: the quality of the food, the use of better ingredients, food that is wholesome, a perception of freshness, first-rate décor, fair pricing, fast service, friendly employees, flexible offerings, and a full view of how the food is prepared.

In parallel, consumers have been introduced to the concept of the “grocerant”. A grocerant is defined as a grocery store that offers groceries as well as prepared foods and a sit down dining experience. A few examples would be Whole Foods, Mariano’s and Eataly. These new food experiences provide a combination of convenience and quality to the consumer not seen in the past world of segmented service experiences.

Building upon this trend, we are now starting to see restaurants adapting the idea by considering fresh food retail operations. If consumers want to eat where they shop for groceries, it is reasonable to believe that they also want to grocery shop where they eat. In these scenarios, consumers are able to buy fresh, uncooked items from restaurants. Hybrid concepts like food halls and market restaurants are leading the way in this next movement of convenient, healthy food.

It should come as no surprise that chef-driven, fast-casual concepts were a hot trend at this year’s National Restaurant Show in Chicago, Illinois. The chef-driven, fast casual movement has grown so strong that it came in at No.2 on the NRA’s “What’s Hot” culinary forecast for the coming year, a report completed in conjunction with the American Culinary Federation. “These restaurants are looking at the menu and the ingredients as a chef would, rather than a research and development [professional],” Stensson says. “It’s a slightly different way of looking at the menu and the ingredients that go into it.” As these business models continue to evolve, the food industry will need to rapidly adjust their approach for providing a user experience that delivers convenience without sacrificing the quality expected by modern day consumers.