By Doug Radkey
Adapt & Pivot. Two words we have recently become accustomed to. As a restaurateur, you’ve likely had to do both, to some extent, to maintain consistent levels of sustainability or to just flat-out survive.
On the consumer side, households across Canada and much of the world have also faced an incredible amount of change in many aspects of their daily lives; including how and where they eat in addition to how much they spend to do so.
As restrictions begin to lift, the general population will have more opportunity to re-adjust their eating & spending habits. Whether they are able to return to their pre-COVID-19 spending habits may depend on a variety of factors.
Many consumers may not be able to do so because of financial stress resulting from job loss, fear of infection, and fear of future re-occurring events. By contrast, other consumers might increase their spending because of pent-up demand.
Either way, post-pandemic consumer activity will be a key-factor to either economic recovery or further economic disarray.
Using data from the third iteration (June 15 to 21, 2020) of Statistics Canada’s new Canadian Perspectives Survey Series (CPSS), the largest proportions of Canadians who indicated that they wanted to reduce spending were often in areas related to discretionary spending – such as restaurants and dining-out.
“The category that had the highest proportion of Canadians stating that they expected to spend less compared to prior to the pandemic was eating at a restaurant, with 51% saying so. This was followed by entertainment (37%), clothing or apparel (32%), recreation (32%), and ordering take-out food (31%).”
One spending category that had a higher proportion of people stating that they would be spending more rather than less was groceries. In this category, “19% of respondents reported that they would spend more, 10% said that they would spend less, and 7 in 10 stated that they would spend about the same.”
These results are not surprising, given that a significant proportion of respondents stated that they would spend less on eating at restaurants and ordering take-out food, thus increasing the demand for groceries.
Certain groups may also be more likely than others to see a change in spending habits.
For example, “younger Canadians aged 15 to 34 were more likely to spend more on certain items, compared with 35- to 54-year-olds and people aged 55 and older. This was particularly true for spending on recreation, entertainment, saving and investing, and education. More than 31% of Canadians aged 15 to 34 expected to spend more on recreation, compared with 18% of their older counterparts. Younger individuals were also more likely to spend more on entertainment (26% for 15- to 34-year-olds, compared with 16% or less for the other age groups) and saving & investing (24% vs. 13% or less).”
What does this mean for you, as a restaurateur trying to navigate the next 1-3-6-12 months of operations? It means you’re going to have to adapt, pivot, and likely cater to new demographics.
You will have to create programs that cater to current and new, consumer needs.
You will have to get ahead of the competition, including that of grocery stores, in terms of honing in on your brand identity and by creating elevated on-premise & off-premise experiences, by creating new revenue channels and truly understanding your target demographics like never before.
Do Your Research
You must first know your ideal socio-graphics and level of guest sentiment by re-creating guest profiles, guest journey maps, and by completing in-depth market analysis. You must position yourself to make sound adjustments and pivot moves based on demand, data, sentiment, and brand alignment.
Do you have a vision of your ideal guest(s)? It’s imperative to create at least three different profiles of your target (potentially new) customers, based on your area. Every person reading this will have slightly different profiles. If you’re targeting ages 21 to 40, create one profile for a 21-year-old, one for a 30-year-old, and one for a 40-year-old.
Why? Because they’re all going to be different as they’re all going through different points in their life – more so right now than ever before. You simply cannot target them the same way or think they’re going to have the same guest experience when purchase from your brand.
Like the people themselves, buyer personas change over time with the market, the times, and flows of different products and services. Information on attitudes, lifestyles, activities, and spending habits (pre-covid & post-covid)—how people spend their time and their money throughout the day—leads to the formation of psychographic profiles of a specific population.
You need to know everything you can about these new and existing customers; much more than age and income levels.
Guest Journey Maps
Now that you know your most targeted guests (including potential new audiences), create an experience map for each person. Create one that will tell the story of each experience, whether on-premise or off-premise: from initial contact through the entire process of brand engagement (including finding you, contacting you, ordering, eating, and payment) and through to a long-term relationship.
Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. What are the guests actions, pain-points, goals, and emotional experience and what are the brand ‘touch-points’ and opportunities? You can also ask these questions of actual guests of yours that fit within each psychographic profile.
Adapt & Pivot
Now that you fully understand your target customers, potential new audiences, and what they’re thinking and doing throughout the entire interaction with your brand, you can test and implement stronger activities, F&B programs, technology, and campaigns within your marketing plan, operations plan, and training program to help you come out of this successfully.
Will adding cocktail kits, meal-kits, or even a meal-kit subscription work best for you, your brand, and for your target market? How about introducing first-party delivery, elevated curb-side pick-up, pop-up bodegas, educational taste-maker experiences, unique outdoor pod experiences, or a simplified family meal-deal to name a few?
Adapting & pivoting is conducive to short-term survival along with long-term resilience and growth. Pivoting is really a lateral move that creates enough value not only for the (targeted) customer, but also the restaurant to share. Without that important market & consumer information, your concept will not be prepared for the fight ahead to retain customers while expanding to new, potential audiences.