• Victoria Searl

The one question every hospitality operator or marketer needs to know the answer to

Even before the impact of Covid, hospitality had changed forever.

While it wasn’t widely acknowledged by operators, we were already living in a completely new era of eating and drinking.

The 90’s ushered in the era of choice, with unprecedented innovation and growth across the board - from grab ‘n’ go to premium casual. Giant steps in technology enabled brands to build an online presence which fostered digital engagement and the growth of the voucher economy through the 00’s. And the adoption of social, particularly Instagram in 2010’s, created the era of the ‘experience economy’. Consumers didn’t just want food and drink - they wanted it with bells on.

But now the oldest millennials are turning 40, and Gen Z is setting the agenda. And while Gen Z still want to eat and drink - like everything else in their lives - they want to do it entirely on their own terms.

So when you consider that Gen Z now accounts for 40% of all customers - not including the older groups they influence – we’re dealing with one of the most powerful consumer forces in the market today.

And this has created an obvious new reality - brands who don’t know or understand their customers in intimate detail, will lose them to brands who do.

Food & service just isn’t enough anymore and the closures of massive names like Jamie’s Italian, Gaucho, Carluccio’s, Prezzo, Eat, GBK, Giraffe, Strada, Frankie & Benny’s and Byron in the last few years are all testament to that.

In fact the number of UK restaurants falling into insolvency increased by 25% in the year up to Sept 2019*, and that was before Covid hit.

But there are brands thriving in unbelievably difficult circumstances - like McDonalds, Nando’s, Pret & Pizza Pilgrims - and of course the phenomenal growth of the aggregators such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats can’t be ignored.

So how are these brands winning? Data.

Consumers want value, communication and experiences all relevant and personalised to them, and data drives the insight we need to make those calls. Knowledge really is power.

The old world of useless segmentation - driven by anecdotal insight and generic characterisation is no longer fit for purpose. I’ve heard many brands describe their customer bases as ‘millennial’ when all that means is any human aged between 25 and 40.

Activating this ‘hunch driven’ lack of understanding through one size fits all communications and offers which damage margin and brand credibility is ineffective and unsustainable.

It’s time to step forward into the new world – with an in-depth understanding of the demographic, geographic and psychographic traits of the customers we’ve identified as being most valuable to us by their behaviours (within and away from your brand). All driving a targeted approach to acquisition, conversion & retention which can be brought to life with the boundless creativity and innovation in your brand and marketing teams.

So, with capacity, confidence and trading hours at the lowest levels in a generation, and the long slog of recovery ahead, do you know who your most valuable customers are - and how to get more of them through your door and on your websites?

*UHY Hacker Young. 1400+ restaurants closed in year up to Sept 2019.


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