Full Service Will Benefit
From Eating Trends
The quick-service segment has taken its lumps in the past few years, and that’s likely to continue, says Fitch Ratings, a global credit rating agency. The tastes,
diets and budgets of an aging U.S. population favors full-service, sit-down restaurants, it recently reported.
Fitch Ratings, with dual headquarters in New York City and London, issued its observations last month as part of a foodservice industry overview. It expects away-from-home dining to continue growing, and says restaurant operators who respond best to the increasing customer demand for healthful food will fare the best.
The desire for more healthful meals "will continue to erode sales at quick-service restaurants unless they can adapt to changing consumer preferences," Fitch analysts wrote.
Fitch recognized that McDonald’s has reported sales gains recently following the introduction of new salad offerings, but wrote that overall the biggest fast-food feeders "have become dated in terms of their menus and restaurant designs."
The credit rating agency added: "Repositioning large chains for today’s consumer who is attracted to a less cafeteria-style restaurant atmosphere and healthier food will not be easy."
Fitch recognized that fast-casual concepts have become a hot sector, but sees potential problems because of "slow service time due to their complicated menus and made-to-order food."
Full service restaurants will be the biggest winners in the years ahead, Fitch wrote, because they will best serve the aging population. It points to the success of takeout at numerous casual-dining chains as "another indication that consumers are willing to pay more for higher-quality food rather than go to a fast-food restaurant.
With that said, Fitch contends that the foodservice industry’s future looks relatively bright.
"The combination of population growth, increased disposable income and the shrinking size of U.S. households will provide ample incremental consumer traffic for restaurants to grow over the next two decades," it wrote.
I’m convinced Fitch is right about the industry’s growth. But is the recent surge in consumer demand for more healthful eating options a trend with legs or merely a fad? The population is getting older and seemingly more careful about what it eats. The industry must be prepared to offer mature diners more healthful options. But what about the younger generations? Are they as interested?
I’m not so sure, though Ihave little doubt that the "health" issue is on their radar screens because of media attention. The "obesity lawsuits" against McDonald’s, as frivolous as they were, helped bring attention to the issue. And you can’t go anywhere without hearing about Atkins this and Atkins that. Oh, and now TV’s Dr. Phil is on the obesity band wagon, which makes me suspect we’re riding a big, fat fad.
What do you think?How are you dealing with the issue? Are you getting your menus (and waistlines) in shape or are you riding this one out?