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Delightful Shopping – Retail Catering is More Than Just an Additional Treat

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An interview: with Olaf Hohmann, a member of the board of management at EHI, a scientific retail institute with around 800 members from the retail, industry, and service sectors.

Retail catering gatro Olaf Hohmann

Image: Olaf Hohmann, Head of the Retail Catering research division of the EHI Retail Institute

The catering and food service market is shaped by many influences. What are the most important ones?

Weather, income, and time availability are the major factors influencing the consumption of food away from home. Locality, personal food storage, and cooking abilities, however, are also significant. One’s situation in life and their specific mood also play role.

Could you explain in detail what you mean by “one’s situation in life”?

For example, eating as a form of social activity, such as meeting with friends or the opportunity to meet new people, shouldn’t be underestimated for people living alone. Age can also be an issue: In the case of younger patrons, functional needs, such as quickly satisfying one’s hunger, are increasingly leading more people to eat out. The decisive factor for the elderly, however, is that they want to be able to consciously enjoy their food.

Retail catering or classic gastronomy⁠ – which factors determine choice?

Retail catering is most likely resorted to when you’ve got shorter breaks in day-to-day life, such as a shopping break or lunch break, or when purely functional aspects, such as lack of time and comfort, are a priority. When it comes to emotional aspects, such as indulgence, meeting with friends and family, or a date, then classic gastronomy is clearly the winner.

EHI Study retail catering

Image: EHI-Studienpreview – Der Konsument in der Handelsgastronomie

What are currently the most important wishes and requirements of guests dining out?

Above all, the food must taste good and satiate you. Eating should be convenient but also in most cases quick. Health becomes increasingly important the older one gets. Superfood and healthy fast food, such as smoothies, bowls and salads, are the trend. Vegetarian or vegan food is becoming progressively popular, and there are more and more offers. One good international example of this is the organic supermarket chain Planet Organic in London, which is tackling these issues both within the realm of retail as well as in catering. A sense for sustainability also means consumers don’t only appreciate organic products but also food which is sourced from the region and which is in season. Packaging alternatives to plastics, aluminum, and Styrofoam are steadily being sought, such as glass or paper. Cleanliness, quality, and freshness also count. Retail catering is doing a good job of satisfying these desires, but it’s not quite perfect yet. Sometimes there is a lack of quality and healthy offers. And, from time to time, the atmosphere can be rather uncomfortable.

What criteria influence the decision when there are several retail catering options available?

Retail food catering

Image: Matthias Schmiedel

Cleanliness, freshness, quality, variety, speed, comfort, proximity, easy access – for example, parking – as well as price are pivotal for making a decision. Tradition and regionality also make a difference. Convenient handling and practical, dense and environmentally friendly packaging are important when the food is to be taken out. A good overall atmosphere is critical for eating in.

How will retail catering develop in the future?

Many developments currently point toward out-of-home consumption further increasing. The rise in smaller households, increasing mobility, urbanization, lack of time, and stress are just a few of these developments. Retail catering not only offers an immediate solution to satisfy the needs arising out of these developments, but it also offers an inspiring palate of options. Not to mention that traditional retail is increasingly taking on more of a social function today, such as shopping as a recreational activity or commercial businesses as places to meet and socialize. Catering is therefore part of a holistic approach for many retailers as well as an investment in the future!

Definition of retail catering

Retail catering is defined as continuously offering restaurant services, along with drinks and ready-to-eat meals, in a place that is directly or conceptually connected to retail activities.

  • There is a continual supply on offer with regular opening times, which can be freely accessed by anyone without any restrictions.
  • Catering services can be purchased or acquired for free, for example, a free hot drink while shopping for fashion or in a retailer’s waiting area.
  • Retail catering pertains to all subsections of catering or ready-to-eat offers available in retail: Take-away, to-go convenience, and ready-to eat products ready to be pulled from shelves, hot and cold displays, buffet-style salad bars, coffee bars, baking sections, or also restaurant-like services or restaurants in retail space.
  • Retail catering is found across different sectors and areas. What really counts when combining retail and catering together is to have well-thought-out concepts that aren’t just random and to tailor the catering offers to the existing retail offers.

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