Based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Yankelovich Partners is a research consultancy that is one of America's most respected experts on consumer attitudes, lifestyles and behaviors. President J. Walker Smith was recently interviewed by Restaurant & Institutions magazine. Following are interview comments by Walker that offer keen insights and are very applicable to the location-based entertainment industry.
"A lot of the rapid change in consumer values stems from fundamental lifestyle changes... That's changing people's expectations, so the value equation is changing everywhere. People expect the best product at the best price. The old value equation where consumers were willing to trade a little product to get a cheaper price or something a little quicker doesn't exist. We're no longer willing to accept that trade off...
"People have come to expect the ability to get exactly what they want. The lesson we have taught consumers over the past decade is that they should expect individualized customization, and food service is part of the chorus singing this song.
"What Starbucks did very early was recognize that there was going to be increasing interest in reconnecting and re-engagement in community. Take these changes in the economy [referring to the growth of the economy and a prosperous society] and demographics [aging baby boomers, increasing minority population and rise of single households] and add an enormous shift in core lifestyle values, and - not withstanding the disappearance of marriage as the normative household - the interest in family is going up dramatically. People are looking for products, and - particularly when it comes to food service - for experiences that can reconnect them with others. It's not just about convenience or speed; those are important, but people are looking for opportunities to reconnect."