How Will the Food Industry Respond to the Dine-Alone Customer?

A few weeks ago we discussed how difficult it may be for marketers to determine whether a perceived change in customer behavior is a real trend or just a passing fad. While spotting trends and adapting to them can yield important competitive advantages, reacting too quickly can be potentially risky. A company that adjusts its marketing strategy to address what they believe is a real change to their market may be making a big mistake if the trend is only a blip and does not pan out in the long run.

For this reason, the issue addressed in this NBC News story is one that some marketers would be wise to take time evaluating before reacting by changing their strategy. It discusses what may be a growing market for customers who dine alone or order takeout for their meals. The initial thought that may come to restaurants and other foodservice marketers is that the research presented in this story is signally that a behavioral shift is occurring and changes are needed.

For instance, for dine-alone customers who eat at restaurants, eateries may consider: making changes to store layout to provide more comfortable seating for single customers; offering access to several electrical connections to allow customers to plug-in multiple electronic items; or providing more adaptable plates and food containers that enable customers to place food around different parts of the table rather than just on a single large plate. For takeout customers, ideas may include: expanding the takeout menu including offering food options that may differ from what dine-in customers see; or encouraging or even rewarding the use of reusable food carrying bags which the purchaser brings with them, thus helping reduce the cost of takeout packaging.

However, it is also important to note that some foodservice companies will not want to change even if the increase in dine-alone customers is more than a fad. As we mentioned back in April, the space and time taken up by single customers may not be worth the expense and may limit the opportunity to generate higher revenue by servicing tables with multiple customers.

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