New Competition from the Takeout Counter

They say a little competition never hurt anyone, but the competition from supermarkets for the breakfast and lunch crowds that ordinarily might have dropped by a restaurant is cause for concern for some restaurateurs.

It turns out that in addition to competing with each other, fast casual places throughout the country now have to compete with fresh breakfast and lunch available as a takeout option at many local supermarkets. While these options will never replace the experience of sitting down for a fine dining experience while meeting a client, they are creating problems for restaurants that rely on the “grab a quick lunch and head back to the office” crowd.

Surviving the New “Takeout” Competition

In the NPD Group Restaurant Analyst Bonnie Riggs is warning in a recent report that restaurateurs will need to “take notice” of this new form of competition if they are to continue to survive and thrive. A big part of the problem she explains has been the recent recession when many consumers became more price conscious and realized that eating lunch from the takeout counter at their desks was a cheaper option than hitting up a real restaurant.

And the threat isn’t just from major supermarkets says industry commentator Peter Romeo. According to Romeo, even the small corner grocery has started getting in on the act, offering fresh food ready to eat for workers to take back to the office.  He also says that the stigma that once surrounded those who brought lunch in from the takeout counter has started to dissipate, as the quality of the food has gotten better and better.

While the new competition can make life difficult for some restaurants, restaurateurs are finding ways to compete effectively. The problem doesn’t really have an effect on the higher end white tablecloth restaurants where clients are entertained and fast food joints have prices comparable to those at the supermarket.

Atmosphere Could Trump the Convenience

However, fast casual restaurants are competing effectively against this new phenomenon by stressing what it is they do best – they offer customers more than just food. They offer an experience, a chance to get out of the office and forget their problems for a few minutes during their lunch break. This is invaluable to many workers and something that no supermarket has yet to find a way to compete with.

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