Since the economic downturn of 2008, consumption habits have changed significantly. Many consumers have turned to fast food instead of full-service restaurants. This would seem nothing but good news for quick-service restaurants (QSR), were it not that a new type of food operator came into play: fast casual restaurants. QSRs have also been facing an increasingly competitive environment within their own segment. This urges QSRs to develop divergent strategies. How can packaging help quick-service restaurants to address these challenges?
Over the last decade, fast casual restaurants have been booming worldwide, disrupting the sector by combining positive elements of quick-service and full-service restaurants,offering superior food for midscale prices. QSRs had to respond to this successful new formula. Many quick-service operators have upgraded their brands by turning to healthier, varied menus that appeal more to millennials. Likewise they have been improving the quality of packaging in terms of material grades and graphics. This trend of premiumisation includes a new focus on sustainability and a shift away from traditional formats. Yet with the lingering retail crisis, QSRs are developing other strategies as well.
Re-inventing the combo meal
To stay ahead of the competition, QSRs have to focus on value appeal and service. One trend is especially striking: the comeback, or rather re-invention, of the combo meal. The traditional combo - a complete meal plus beverage - was introduced in the 1980s. The introduction of value items at prices as low as one euro/dollar, led to the decline of combo sales after the turn of the millennium.
In the current value war, leading quick-service brands are re-strategising by bundling value items into customisable combos. This enables them to address multiple customer needs with an effective price rate for value-seeking customers. Research shows that value bundles do not increase the average check amount per visit, but they do make the visit frequency higher. By offering customisable tiered pricing structures - e.g. 2 for 2 euro/dollar and 4 for 4 - QSRs can improve sales, traffic and customer loyalty. Packaging helps to communicate the value appeal of these combos of the future.
Then there is the breakthrough of e-delivery. Many upper and midscale restaurants already offer online service, despite the investment in new technologies this transition requires. Contradictory as online service may seem in relation to their proposition, QSRs simply cannot stay behind. Leaders in the segment, such as McDonald’s, are currently testing e-delivery through digital platforms like UberEATS and Just Eat. The development of online service will affect the segment significantly in the years to come with franchises deploying their own e-delivery networks.
In response to recent challenges, QSRs are premiumising their meals, re-inventing combos and exploring the possibilities of e-delivery. Out-of-home packaging is an important part of the solution. Presentation, price value and service continue to be the key ingredients for a satisfying out-of-home dining experience, beside the meal itself. QSRs can upgrade their presentation and create better brand images by using premium quality packaging. On the other side of the coin, QSRs can use packaging to emphasise the value of their combo meal and optimise customer experience. Finally, the breakthrough of e-delivery will create a new business dynamic and need for a wide range of high quality packaging products in QSR.
In April 2017 Smithers Pira, the worldwide authority on the packaging, paper and print industry supply chains, published a white paper on the European out-of-home packaging market, predicting the trends to 2022. Their study, commissioned by APP and based on extensive desk and primary research, forecasts a growth of this market of 6% to hit €6bn by 2020. The report was presented May 4 at Interpack, Dusseldorf Germany by Dr. Liz Wilks, APP’s European Director for Sustainability and Stakeholder Outreach.
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food, takeaway, out-of-home packaging, innovation, combo deal