Food in America – A Redefinition of Our Industry

Posted by Jack Li - Datassential January 17, 2017

Tagged in Foodservice Industry Research Presidents Conference

For decades, foodservice has been defined as food prepared away from home. Today, however, the lines are blurring between foodservice and in-home meals. When people entertain at home, for example, they often acquire food from both retail and foodservice sources. Research shows that people enjoy eating at home when they are multitasking or when they want a comfortable atmosphere. On the other hand, consumers are excited and passionate about away-from-home meals. Rather than trying to get people into restaurants, foodservice companies can succeed by bringing food to consumers at home. Keys to success are improved access, delivery, and automation.


Exclusive to the Presidents Conference, Jack Li shared proprietary research which shows how consumers use food at and away from home, as well as implications for the foodservice industry.

Key Takeaways

Home is becoming a much bigger opportunity for the foodservice industry.

Datassential’s research has found that people eat all day long, and eating occasions aren’t easily classified as either foodservice or retail. Over the course of a day, it is not uncommon for consumers to have eight distinct eating events. People simply reach out for what is available at the time, rather than making conscious decisions about buying meals from foodservice or retail.

To better understand consumers’ decision-making process, it is important to understand how food is consumed:

  • One third of food that is sourced away from home is eaten at that venue.
  • Over half the food sourced away from home is eaten at home, at work, or at school.
  • Close to three quarters (74%) of all food is eaten at home.
  • One in six away-from-home instances also include food from home.

The home represents a major opportunity for foodservice, since it plays a pivotal role in consumer habits. Looking ahead, home meals are expected to become much more important. When people entertain at home, for example, they often acquire food from many different places, which include both retail and foodservice sources.

“From the consumer’s point of view, it’s more of foodservice and retail working together in some way to collectively fulfill all of their needs. I think that’s where we want to find some more collaboration and think about the consumer’s journey for food in terms of all the places they could source things.”

– Jack Li


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