Foodservice branches out to reach more.
Mobile. It’s the buzzword of the moment, so it’s no surprise the foodservice world is embracing the on-the-go concept. For businesses, it’s a new method of marketing and advertising; for customers, it’s a quick and convenient way to find a bite to eat. Market research firm the NPD Group reports the restaurant industry is on the verge of recovery, and trend specialist Mintel observes that restaurants that focus on improving convenience may be able to defend against eroding sales from the sit-down segment.
Businesses including Quizno’s, Applebee’s and Burger King are freeing themselves from the traditional advertising media of television and billboards and are developing smartphone apps to connect with hungry out-and-about customers. e apps aim to attract business by alerting users to current deals and nearby locations.
In 2009, pretzel retailer Auntie Anne’s tapped into the marketing potential of cellphones and introduced a text messaging coupon system. The Wall Street Journal reported that in Orlando, Fla., and Houston, the pretzel retailer captured a 30 percent redemption rate. Although the redemption rate in Auntie Anne’s San Diego market only clocked in at 15 percent, the number was still significantly higher than the traditional paper coupon redemption figure.
Geolocation websites like Four-square and Gowalla also offer fertile ground for mobile marketing efforts. By establishing a presence on these social sites, restaurants can alert users in their area to special off ers and can reward loyalty with virtual or even real-world gifts.
Even the food itself is taking to the streets. From coast to coast, people have noticed that the ubiquitous food truck is undergoing a metamorphosis. No longer the much maligned “roach coach,” some of these on-the-go eateries are now hip, highly regarded sources of food, operated by both brick-and-mortar businesses and top-rated chefs. Even the National Restaurant Association has taken note, featuring an exhibit on food trucks at its annual trade show in May. In cities like New York, Los Angeles and Portland, birds of a feather flock together as food trucks congregate to create mobile food courts, offering everything from authentic French crêpes to the legendary Sprinkles cupcakes, which are now available from the Sprinklesmobile. Fans can find out where the trucks will be next by following them on Twitter.
Mobile is more than just a trend; it’s the latest development in a hyper-connected society, in which customers expect the world–and their food–at their fingertips.