Have you heard the term “grocerant” before? If not, you likely will, over the coming months, as more and more grocery stores are becoming hybrids. What this means is that, rather than simply offering produce to their customers, they’re offering prepared meals for the option to dine in or take-away (with a focus on convenience). This of course, is painfully close to the service that restaurants offer, which is why many people in the food and beverage industry are unnerved by this new trend.
OK, so perhaps the “grocerant” hybrid isn’t new. In fact, in places like Portugal, they have restaurants (or Taskinas) which operate as café’s during the day, whilst selling groceries such as local wines, cured meats and even pastries; then in the evening, the fine dining begins. This is something that has been around for many, many years. That said, these establishments are primarily restaurants, and certainly don’t stock enough in the way of groceries to compete with a supermarket.
It’s all about the convenience
The biggest driving force behind this emerging trend is the desire to create more convenience for customers. If a guest can do their weekly shop, whilst stopping for a spot of lunch, then they’re going to kill two birds which one stone. It’s not so dissimilar to the drive-through phenomenon which occurred decades ago. But of course, the numbers are staggering, which is causing many a restaurateur to panic. Clearly, this convenience trend, is not so convenient for them. The smart grocery stores, however, are working hard towards driving more foot-traffic through their stores to counter online grocery delivery, and it’s working!
You can’t beat a decent meal in a fancy restaurant
The important thing to note at this stage though, is that the likelihood of grocery stores replacing the demand for restaurants all together is extremely unlikely. Let’s be realistic! Can you imagine trying to take the wife to dinner at local supermarket on your anniversary? You’d have to have a death wish. The fact is, grocery stores simply do not offer the same environment as a restaurant. Certainly, stopping for a casual lunch won’t hurt, but it’s definitely safe to say that dinner is untouchable. That said, most restaurants rely on the lunch-rush in order to stay afloat. So, the next question is, what is the food and beverage industry going to do about it?
Perhaps we will see a rise in restaurants hosting regular lunch-time events in order to get more customers through their door. It would be unwise to turn a well-established, fine-dining restaurant into a mini-mart combo. However, they could-well benefit from embracing a specialist establishment. For example, a French restaurant that doubles up as a fresh bakery. Perhaps they could offer various bakery courses and sell baking “starter-kits”. There are many ways that restaurants can adopt this approach and it could work wonders with driving more customers through their doors during what would otherwise be a quiet lunch period.
If you won’t come to us, we’ll bring the food to you
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom for restaurants. In fact, most are fighting back by embracing technology and turning it to their advantage. In what we’re coining “the convenience wars”, restauranteurs are responding by using the likes of UberEats, and the other plethora of food delivery services that have sprung up in recent years. Simply put they’re going to where the money is, rather than expecting the customers to come to them.
In any case, it’s an exciting time for the modern consumer, as things really are getting easier with the rise of technology, and the demand for convenience. I guess all that we can do for now is to sit back and enjoy the ride!