Behavioral Habits Any (And Every) Foodservice Operator Should Know

Experts at FARE reveal how consumers, employees are changing

Published in CSP Daily News

Anthony Lye

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Regardless of what kind of facility they manage, foodservice operators came to FARE 2014 with a yearning to understand how constituents' behavior is changing. The attendees came from all avenues of foodservice, from traditional quick-service restaurants (QSRs) to convenience stores to healthcare feeding. Yet they likely came to Dallas with a common objective: Learning how the public's behavior is changing and what they can do to exploit it.

They not only heard about shifts in the habits of consumers, but also in the habits of their employees as well.

Consider:

  • Restaurant managers log onto their phones 10 times as often as they log onto a computer, according to Anthony Lye, chief product officer of Red Book Connect, Alpharetta, Ga., whose products include phone-based scheduling applications.

"It's not something that they're doing at the end of the day, it's not something they're doing at the end of the week--they're logging in constantly," Lye said of restaurant professional's smart-phone use. "That demonstrates to us that they're much more comfortable and much more reactive to what's on a mobile."

  • Only 7% of the candidates applying for a restaurant job were referred by a current employee. Raising that proportion is the new frontier in restaurant recruitment services and technology, said Lye.

"Don't spend money on job boards," he said. "Take that money and give it to your employees for referrals."

  • Consumers may say they want extensive choices when dining out or shopping, but are often overwhelmed by the broad arrays they profess to want. They just can't evaluate and prioritize that many options, speakers agreed.

Trader Joe's alumnus Glenn Backus cited a supermarket that stocked 164 varieties of men's deodorant and several hundred salad dressings. Daunted by the possibilities, consumers lapse back to the brands they knew, he asserted. Backus recounted the time another supermarket employer, H-E-B, opened a new store that stocked 30% fewer options in all categories. Because shoppers could comprehend and process what choices were on the shelves, they believed the inventory was broader than the SKU totals of older H-E-B stores.

Celebrity chef Robert Irvine noted that run-on menus can hurt restaurants in additional ways. Tomes with too many choices take longer to peruse, slowing table turns. Stocking supplies for all the options complicates inventory management, and the kitchen staff has to learn how to prepare them all. With fewer varieties of meals to prepare, they become more adept at preparing each.

"Less is more," he said.

  • Restaurateurs will have an easier time embracing the coming generation of in-store technology because they never developed a dependence on earlier systems and equipment, according to Lye.

"The legacy device we most often see is the white board," he commented. "That enables the restaurant industry to leapfrog because there's not a lot of legacy to replace."

FARE is being presented by CSP Business Media's CSP, Convenience Store Products, Restaurant Business and FoodService Director magazines. For more on FARE, check #FARE14.

Peter Romeo is vice president and editorial director of Restaurant Business magazine.