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Consumers want you to be their allies

Today’s consumer is looking for restaurants that will be “trusted allies” in helping them achieve their priorities, explained Holly Moore, a trend expert at The Futures Company.

Speaking at the National Restaurant Association’s Marketing Executives Group conference, Moore characterized today’s consumer as profoundly changed because of the economic downturn and the uncertainty it bred.

“The sense of uncertainty is not going to go away anytime soon,” Moore said. “But that does not mean that consumers will be in retreat from shopping and buying. Nor will they rush headlong back into the marketplace.”

They are, instead, being deliberate in their decision making. Moore said today’s consumer, compared with pre-downturn, is more vigilant, resourceful, concerned with their priorities, interested in their social networks, and responsible.

They will choose restaurants that help them, in effect, multitask: let them eat, but also, for instance, let them feel socially conscious—if that is a priority—or help them simply relax and destress, or feel better educated about nutrition.

And they are going to be more vigilant in finding places that help them do that. “Consumers are doing more due diligence,” said Moore. “They want to be smarter, savvier shoppers.”

Having lived through the brutal effects of the economic downturn, they feel they have to rely more on themselves to make smart decisions, and so they are becoming more resourceful as well. They are leveraging technology, especially apps, that help them make smart decisions and to be better educated. If restaurants can be seen as helping them in that endevour, they will be valued more.

Consumers are prioritizing more than they did in the past,  said Moore. Fifty-four percent of consumers said the economic downturn had helped them prioritize what’s important in life, according to Futures Company research.

And, Moore pointed out, when asked what of five “human resources” is most valuable to them, having more “energy” ranked higher than having more time, money or information.

Consumers are saving energy by turning to their support networks to help make decisions, and are embracing social media as a way to do that. Trust is big these days. They trust their friends. If they can trust your restaurant, you’ll be popular with today’s consumer, said Moore.

Finally, she said, consumers are “taking ownership of their problems.” They are not looking to others to solve their problems, but they are looking for help. Childhood obesity is a good example, Moore said. Sixty-three percent of consumers feel the food and beverage industry should take more responsibility for the nation’s health.

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