Comfort Foodservice

Consider entire food ordering situation, not just the food, Balzer says

CHICAGO -- When it comes to giving your customers what they want in foodservice, the smartest things you can do are look at how to make peoples' lives easier and give them food they have always loved in exciting, new ways.

That was the message from Harry Balzer, vice president of data tracking firm NPD Group during a presentation on eating trends and patterns at the NACS SOI Summit in partnership with CSP in Chicago on Wednesday.

Balzer has spent more than 25 years analyzing the eating habits of Americans and each year produces [image-nocss] Pert Washington, N.Y.-based NPD's Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America. He has learned several key facts from his work. For example, although Americans report that they are concerned about eating healthy, fried chicken has enjoyed steady growth for decades.

The reason for this, Balzer said, is that retailers are using creative marketing techniques. Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn't sell fried chicken' anymore, he said. They sell nuggets, tenders and strips. By avoiding the word fried, which people associate with being unhealthy, retailers can give consumers what they want and consumers do not feel that they are not eating healthy.

Balzer said Americans are becoming obsessed with freshness and that if you can give customers the feeling that you are providing freshness, you will be rewarded. Also, he said, making the ordering experience easy for customers is a big factor.

Balzer half-jokingly said that the most important food appliance being used today is the power window on cars, which makes it possible for people to order food easily and quickly at drive-thru windows. All trends move toward making peoples' lives easier, he said. Think about the entire food ordering situation, not just the food. Give customers an easy experience.

Customers love trying new things, too, Balzer said; however, giving them innovative products does not mean getting too far from the mainstream. We love to try new things, but that's just us being us, he said. Retailers must focus on giving customers the foods they have always loved such as fried chicken, burgers, fries, sandwiches, milk and cereal, because it takes generations for food tastes to change significantly.