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Inattention can be a Brand Killer and more from this Year’s FARE Conference

During this year’s FARE – The Business of Food Conference, Technomic’s Senior Director Donna Hood Crecca spoke a lot about “consumer precision.”  “Never before in U.S. history have we had such a diverse consumer base. How do we wrap our brains around it? How do we know who we’re going after,” she opened.

Donna is right. Thirty-eight percent of the U.S. population today is considered multicultural, and then you can layer generational, geographic, cultural and behavioral differences, among others, on top of that.  Getting precise about who can best help your bottom line and then how to most effectively target them is a powerful one-two punch.

Donna gathered a panel representing the “whos” – the most scalable consumer opportunities for restaurants right now:  Hispanics, Baby Boomers and The Heartland (Midwest, Southwest and most of the South East).  I think it’s important to note that Hispanics cut across both the Baby Boomer and The Heartland populations.  In fact, in Tennessee, where FARE was held this year, the Hispanic population has tripled since 2000.

Here’s some of what we discussed:

On understanding culture.  “Many times I find that culture isn’t taken account when building a brand communications strategy,” said Paul Jankowski, author of How to Speak American, representing The Heartland. Fortunately, there are many elements of culture that intersect. We agreed that community, faith and family all popped for our three target demographics.  Embracing those similarities and celebrating the differences in your marketing can help you reach and connect with a larger swath of consumers.

On the Hispanic differences of note. The population is younger overall, is more likely to have kids and is more likely to live in multigenerational households.  Because of this, restaurants become important moments for family bonding, and developing and promoting dining occasions as such can be a real trial driver.  The larger household size translates to larger party size which, in turn, leads to a greater desire for variety to ensure that everyone is satisfied.   Given the younger skew of this population, it’s not surprising that Hispanics lean toward snacks, drinks and the little something extras in many of their dining out moments.

On building brands.  Paul shared that the “best way to build your brand is to be consistent and keep your word.” From the Hispanic POV, inattention can be a brand killer. This consumer is very aware of those brands that are advertising in English and aren’t in Spanish and they wonder why.  Making the effort and showing that sign of respect is important.

The consumer is certainly king, and the more you get to know them the better you’ll be able to shape your restaurants to meet their needs and wants. As Donna said, “Everything that we do starts and ends with the consumer. You can have the most delicious food. You can have your operations locked down tight. You can have the most beautiful stores. But if you do not effectively engage, attract and retain the consumer it’s all for naught.”

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