This Week on The Street (A more or less regular compilation of news, factoids and observations)
April 8, 2014
by Harold V. Shumacher
For years I’ve been saying that the restaurant business is the last hands on business in America and was immune from the technological changes sweeping most industries. Granted, no one has yet come up with a robot that can cook a steak medium rare steak (though it’s not for lack of trying,)
Consider the following. Applebee’s and Chili’s are both experimenting with tablets installed at tables where patrons would place their own orders, request refills of beverages and be able to swipe their credit cards at the end of the meal. It’s estimated that a typical server would be able to handle twice as many tables in this format, hence reducing labor costs.
Another labor saver. On line reservationists in lieu of hostesses to take reservations, highly sophisticated point of sale systems that maintain permanent inventories (though smart operators continue to check manually) eliminating purchasing jobs, or at least an extra duty for chefs and G.M.’s.; more sophisticated pay roll systems, minimizing or eliminating the need for clerical and support staff and finally cooking systems that require less culinary backgrounds (i.e.) heating or assembling previously prepared meals.
This turn to technology reflects another trend impacting the food service business, s the growing importance of the millennials. Roughly defined as people from their late teens to early 30’s, this group now represents almost 25% of the U.S. population, According to mediapost.com they have several dining habits that are different than their predecessors.
First, they’re a mobile group, dining on the go, between meals (hence Taco Bell’s highly effective fourth meal campaign.) They like quality food but not high prices and have been big drivers for concepts such as Chipotle, Panera and upscale sandwich concepts.
They’re a generation of foodies. Raised on the food network-which has been in existence for approximately half their lives –food is a central focal point, whether reading about it, watching food shows on t.v. or a topic among their friends this is a generation that lives to eat and not eats to live. They also have shared values, that is they like to share with others what they’re up to, hence the popularity of foodie pics on all types of social media. Finally this is a group that seeks out authenticity. They want to know what they’re eating, how’s it’s prepared and where it comes from. Maybe not as extreme as depicted in popular media (hi, my name is George I’m your server and tonight’s chicken entrée was called Matilda) but darn close. This is a generation that cares about nutrition, sustainability, and farm to table is not a cliché but a growing part of their culinary focus. Important lessons for any operator in today’s challenging times.
Not everyone is a foodie. Convenience store chains, like Race Trac and Quik Trip are continuing to expand their food offerings, in some cases becoming competitors for local fast food stops. We were in a new race trac at lunch time in the North Atlanta suburbs a few weeks back and you’d have thought you were in line at McDonald’s, the line 10 deep. These stores have almost doubles in size the past few years and are continuing to grow with beverage and smoothie stations, freshly made sandwiches and salads, fruit etc. the norm rather than the exception.
Recent transactions for the Shumacher Group, Inc. include
Takorea, 4474 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. Georgetown Shopping Center/Dunwoody (former Guthrie’s)
Buffalo Wild Wing- 2200 Peachtree Street (former Justin’s) Atlanta.
Dinner Lab-Office & Commissary Decatur.
Verizon Expansion-Peachtree City
Sale of the Following Businesses
The Capital Room (Athens, Ga.)
Fresh to Order; Greenville S.C. & Nashville, Tn.
For a more comprehensive list of recent transactions please visit our website Shumacher.com