Convenience Drives Daily Food Choices for Most Americans, Particularly Younger Diners

A new report from Mintel confirms the importance of convenience, particularly to the out-​to-​eat crowd, especially those under age 34.

Over half of younger adults rank a restaurant’s proximity to their workplace as very important/​important when selecting where to dine (62% of 25–34s and 55% of 18–24s, versus 41% of all respondents). The ability to order online ahead of time is also essential to young, time-​strapped consumers (31% of 25–34s and 24% of 18–24s, versus 19% overall). The younger demographics also rank extended hours (i.e. late-​night) and speed of service highly in their restaurant selection processes.

Though value remains important to diners in this economy, our survey reveals convenience may be equally as important. Young adults and young families, especially, are pressed for time, making restaurants an easy and often necessary solution for meals. As foodservice establishments struggle for revenue, improving convenience may help them get diners in the door,” states Chris Haack, senior analyst at Mintel.

While 43% of respondents told Mintel they’ve cut spending on delivery and takeout this year, approximately one in six 18–34 year-​olds say they’re spending more on these convenient services compared to 2008. In the past three months, 18–34s were twice as likely as the general population to have ordered delivery. Approximately 30% of them picked up food from a restaurant, compared to 20% of all respondents.

In its latest food and beverage market research, NPD finds that 72 million adult consumers—nearly one in three adults—are “Convenience Consumers,” but their needs are varied depending on their life stage and other characteristics.

According to the NPD report, Convenience Consumers, who attitudinally place a premium on convenience, tend to fall into one or more of the following groups: younger adults, males, singles who have never been married, single-​member households, working parents, parents with a young child (age 5 or younger), or lower-​income households. Convenience Consumers feel their lives are hectic and rushed and that a dinner taking more than 30 minutes to make is inconvenient. While they believe convenient foods are more expensive, less healthy, and don’t taste as good, they also indicate “convenience is worth paying for.”

The NPD report, which examines how consumers define, value, and fill their need for convenient foods throughout the day, also found that while Convenience Consumers differ attitudinally from other consumers in many ways, they are similar in some regards: two-​thirds of them, on par with other consumers, say they enjoy cooking; and, like other adults, the majority of Convenience Consumers plan meals ahead of time.

Convenience has been a buzz word in the food and beverage industry for a long time, but we found through our research that it’s really not a one-​size-​fits-​all concept,” says Ann Hanson, director of product development in NPD’s food and beverage unit. “Americans differ in how they define and value convenience. It’s important that food and beverage marketers differentiate the various meanings of convenience among their consumers and message accordingly…or they'll miss the target."

"Convenience still top order for younger diners," Mintel Oxygen Reports/​Mintel Menu Insights, January 2010.  Website: www​.mintel​.com

"The Many Facets of Convenience, " conducted by The NPD Group, January 26, 2010.  Website: www​.npd​.com.