Last September Deloitte’s outlook for the casual dining sector forecast challenging times ahead and they weren’t wrong! But they did also see opportunities for operators if they could harness digital technology as well as some key consumer trends.
By digital technology they were referring to things like delivery and pre-ordering services as well as in-store customisation of menus and dynamic pricing – all very doable with the right funding and the right tech.
As for consumer trends, Deloitte cites the rising demand for healthy eating and more information about food provenance and sustainability. Of course, with Millenials (those born between 1982-1996) and Generation Z (those born from 1997 onwards) shaping the future landscape of the casual dining sector, this isn’t surprising.
Millenials in particular are very focused on their personal wellbeing so healthy eating is obviously attractive for this generation. They want to feel good about themselves and enjoy ‘experiences’ over ‘things’. And whilst other drivers for them include convenience, choice and value for money, the desire to ‘connect’ with people and causes has major implications for today’s brands. So the casual dining sector needs to embrace these Millenial* traits in order to attract this important demographic.
This week the Caterer reported on the falling pre-tax profits at the UK’s top 100 restaurant groups. But amongst the gloom it also noted a couple of success stories. One in particular caught our attention, having been ahead of the curve for some time. It’s the ethically sourced, environmentally friendly, fast-food chain Leon, who continue to innovate and who are about to expand into Europe.
Retail Focus recently featured a Q&A with John Vincent, the Co-Founder of Leon. As you’d expect from such an innovator, it’s an interesting read but one thing that shines through is John’s passion and hands-on involvement in the business that he and his Co-Founder Henry Dimbleby launched back in 2004. Even today, with 50 strong stores he is still designing and choosing the menus. Their successful brand culture is built on a solid vision and positivity that values and motivates their staff and celebrates customer satisfaction. John refers to Leon as a ‘family’ and not a ‘company’ – it’s why he believes they succeed where others fail.
From our perspective, the Leon success story chimes with so many other successes we witness, not just in F&B retail but also more widely across the broader retail sector. Without a clear vision and an honest passion for the business, retail brands of all sizes flounder sooner or later. And today’s savvy consumers – especially those all-important Millenials – just won’t buy it!
* You can read more about the intricacies of the behaviour of Millenials in this Forbes article