TREND: While 76% of Today’s Consumers agree that being in control of your life is extremely/very important, only 52% are satisfied with the control they have; just 31% think the control they have over their future will increase in the next few years.
OPPORTUNITY: An uncertain world has left consumers searching for stability and focusing on elements in their lives, however small, that they can control. This can attract consumers to environments – including restaurants – that offer a sense of order and structure. A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research identified boundaries as powerful signals of such structure – both “tangible” (such as borders around sections of a menu and clearly defined physical spaces, like a bar area) and “intangible” (an organized environment, lack of clutter). Another way consumers seek order and structure is by sticking to the familiar and predictable – where they know the outcome and there are no surprises. In this respect, chain restaurants have an advantage, but independents can offer alternatives, such as prix fixe menus that provide the same assurances. Clear information helps consumers feel in control – including descriptions of ingredients in dishes and portions/serving sizes. For restaurants that don’t take reservations, consider making a limited number of reserved tables available – at least provide accurate wait times, especially to parents with children. Minimizing surprise, randomness, and confusion may also mean tightening operational systems in the front and back of the house.
CAUTION: Providing options – different portion sizes, choices of preparations – can give consumers a sense of control, but too many options may backfire. Also, while being buttoned up operationally is a positive, inflexibility is not.
Data Source: The Futures Company