In Focus

Format diversity, unified commerce amongst predicted trends in food-to-go

IGD also expects more partnerships and value offers.

Food-to-go retailers and operators will seek to adapt stores to serve consumers with new and different priorities during and after COVID-19, IGD predicts.

“More diversity in format strategy under one brand umbrella and more formats with specific roles (e.g. digital only, dark kitchen, vending, experience-led) operating as a network and balancing cost, service and brand experience,” senior analyst for food-to-go Nicola Knight explained.

With the pandemic fast-tracking digital development, Knight expects food-to-go businesses will need to focus on how to offer a seamless brand experience to customers across all channels.

“The pandemic has caused many more food-to-go businesses to become omnichannel, i.e. serving customers in multiple ways - in store, click and collect through an app, via third party delivery companies or as a retail product. Unified commerce relies on seamlessly connecting customer data and product data through all these channels,” she said.

This connected commerce approach, Knight added, allows for more personalised customer experiences, better forecasting and operational planning and higher customer satisfaction.

“However, food-to-go businesses will have to overcome barriers such as disconnected internal systems and the use of partners (e.g. delivery companies) who don’t share data,” she explained.

Suburban shift
Other predictions Knight mentioned include the suburban shift, attributing it to changing routines by office workers and commuters.

“Suburban customers will have different routines, motivations and needs to commuter and office worker customers. New models based on variations on mission mix, channel mix, footfall flow, range, pricing, service and in-store environment will be needed,” she said.

Convenience stores, being “well-placed” at the heart of communities, are expected to benefit from this shift, leading to opportunities to partner up with food-to-specialists to share overheads. Competition for the best partners could intensify during the year, Knight added.

Delivering more value, more partnerships
2021 will see more food-to-go missions to be discretionary as some consumers are looking to cut back on food-to-go lunches, drinks and snacks as they move around less, work more from home or to save money, Knight said. This, she noted, will lead to more and new ways to make food-to-go affordable through promotions, meal deals, pack size changes and product reformulation.

“At the same time, food-to-go businesses (particularly those operators hardest hit by lockdowns) need to protect margin so will focus on all levers to improve efficiency. This could have far reaching implications for format, staff, service and back-of-house operations, including the increased use of technology to deliver efficiency,” Knight said.

Knight also expects to see more partnerships between retail and food-to-go specialists as both seek to adapt to meet changing consumer needs.

“The pandemic has not affected all food-to-go businesses equally leading to shifts in the balance of relationships and who has the ability to take advantage of opportunities,” she said.

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