Consumer Trends

Uncovering new occasions for traffic growth in foodservice

Photograph: Shutterstock

The need for restaurant operators to drive traffic is nothing new. However, operators face different challenges today than they did in years or decades past, given the preponderance of what Surbhi Martin, Senior Director, Insights, PepsiCo Foodservice, calls “disruption” in the industry.

“This disruption is driven by multiple factors, including structural demographic shifts, such as aging populations, growth of single households and greater multicultural representation, as well as changing consumer preferences—health and wellness, more emphasis on convenience—and technological advances,” Martin says. She also points out that new channels of revenue have emerged and existing channels have blurred, creating outlets such as “grocerants” (restaurants in grocery stores) and food trucks, which give consumers more foodservice options than ever. “This all adds up to a time of unprecedented disruption,” she says, “but also of unprecedented opportunity.”

In an effort to aid operators, PepsiCo Foodservice undertook research to find new ways to understand a guest’s door-to-door journey to a restaurant, as well as to find new sources of value for restaurant owners and managers. The outcome: A clearer understanding of the four kinds of “time” or occasions that a majority of guests experience when they visit a restaurant. With that clarification, an operator can begin to understand the power of creating moments in foodservice using those time constructs and the connections they make with a customer, which can lead to increased traffic.

The four types of time

The traditional ways of looking at foodservice occasions relate to daypart or demographics, but those indicators aren't as effective as they were previously. Instead, Martin says, the "time mode" or "journey" of a person more often drives the decision behind eating out. 

Each mode of time has a different decision-driver. For example, Responsible Time is about logistics—how close the restaurant is and how quickly the consumer will get the food. For Personal Time, it's about selection. In Care Time, brand matters. And for Relished Time, the dining experience itself is more important than logistics.

As we better understand these drivers, we can can bring perspective to our customer partners on how to better meet the needs of guests by understanding the underlying context,” Martin says. “For example, if we know that guests are looking for more ways to connect with their families during weekday meals when in Care Time, we can help families focus on connection, rather than negotiating orders, with solutions like a streamlined menu and ordering process.”

The standard way of connecting with customers via tried-and-true techniques for certain demographics and regions is not entirely out the window, despite this new research. Consider this a way to take those standard traffic growth tactics to the next level to reach more potential guests.

“At the end of the day, we may still deploy unique tactics to connect with a millennial mom during Care Time vs. a boomer,” Martin says. “But we are acknowledging they are turning to Foodservice to satisfy a higher-level common need than their age alone might suggest.”

This post is sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice