Kingston, NH, January 05, 2012 --(PR.com
)-- “2012 may prove to be a better year for corporate and campus in-house food services and other hospitality services than last year,” Tom Mac Dermott, president of Clarion Group, a dining and hospitality services consulting firm says, “but plenty of challenges remain.
“The U.S. economy is slowly recovering from the depths of the 2008-09 recession, but is still a long way from prosperous; boom times aren’t even on the horizon,” he adds, “and a lot depends on the outcome of economic developments elsewhere in the world.”
While approaching the new year with cautious optimism, operators also need to adapt to changes in customers’ tastes, preferences and outlooks that are unaffected by economic conditions. Chief among these are demographics and sustainability, Mac Dermott says.
As ever, older generations are fading and a fresh generation is coming online as the new force in the worlds of academia and business. Termed “the Millennials” or “Gen Y,” these 18- to 29-year-olds, 59 million strong, are entering the adult world full of ambition, energy and idealism and have ideas, expectations and aspirations that differ from those of their predecessors.
“But they’re not a one-size-fits-all group,” he warns. More than preceding generations, they are diverse group; not just the familiar African Americans and Latinos, but people from all over the world, including Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Central and South America. They all have their own traditions, tastes and customs, blended in varying degrees with their acculturation into American life.
Many in these groups, especially the newly-arrived, prefer the foods they’re familiar with from their countries of origin and often bring their meals from home rather than buying food from the campus or company dining center.
What will make them regular customers? “Possibly, a chef from their home country, making familiar meals to order at the service counter,” Mac Dermott suggests. “Over time, they may be venturesome enough to try – and maybe enjoy – the cafe’s standard fare.”
But in catering to the Millennials, don’t forget the Baby Boomers, who still constitute the majority of workers and university faculties, and those in between – Gen X (in their 30s to early 50s). Both groups have more disposable income, more developed tastes and greater flexibility in their dining choices.
Add to this the substantial, and still-growing, interest in sustainability and healthy foods, two prongs of one important trend, common to people of all age brackets, especially women.
“If the operator isn’t providing meals that are healthy, prepared from ‘scratch’ on-site from local, sustainable sources, it’s likely many customers will look for meals from other sources, especially the brown bag – food brought from home,” Mac Dermott says. “Women are more likely to bring meals from home and are less likely to go back to buying food in the campus or company café, once the food-from-home habit is established, no matter what the operator does to lure them.”
Customers’ concerns go beyond the type of foods offered, and extend to other areas of sustainability, he adds, including the sustainability of the dining operation. This includes the quality of disposable tableware (recyclable vs. non-recyclable), efficient use of utilities, conservation steps like composting and the recycling of containers, paper and other products.
“These challenges may be tough to meet all at once,” Mac Dermott says, “but not meeting to meet them can mean the difference between successful, thriving food service and hospitality services and failure.”
About Clarion Group
Clarion Group is an consulting firm that advises companies, professional firms, colleges and universities, independent schools and institutions in the management, operation and improvement of their in-house employee/student dining, catering, conference, lodging and related hospitality services throughout the U.S. and Canada.
For information, contact:
Tom Mac Dermott, FCSI, President
PO Box 158, Kingston, NH 03848-0158
603/642-8011 or TWM@clariongp.com