This Week's Herman Trend Alert

HR in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

July 13, 1999

Where's Dinner?

171 days until January 1, 2000

Over the years, we've gotten food in traditional ways. People have grown some of their food, but most was purchased in grocery stores. Prepared foods were obtained in restaurants ranging from fast-service to formal dining. Some workers and students ate in institutional food service settings such as employee or university cafeterias.

As the pace of life increased, grocers observed people eating out more instead of buying food to prepare at home. They recognized customers who used to spend serious time walking their aisles no longer had that time. For expediency, their customers were opting to dine in restaurants rather than preparing food, then cleaning-up and storing leftovers.

The strategic response from grocery stores was to offer prepared and ready-to-eat foods. Stores began preparing ingredients of a full meal that could be taken home to eat conveniently. They began stocking fresh salad bars and even encouraging customers to eat in the store. This move was a radical departure from tradition and grabbed the attention of the restaurateurs hungry for the same business. Family and finer restaurants countered by emphasizing take-home meals.

This shift spawned a new business: food delivery service offering meals from a variety of restaurants. With enthusiastic support of the eateries, these services extended the restaurants' reach without forcing proprietors to invest in their own delivery services.

Now, rushed, harried, yet health-conscious consumers seek speed, convenience, and nutrition. They have busy lives and simply don't want to take the time to prepare meals during the work week. There's just too much else to do.

Enter the institutional food service industry. Many company cafeterias now offer pre-ordered take-out services. Employees can order a meal-perhaps the same food they had for lunch-for take-home. The package is prepared for pick-up on the way out of work. The easy-to-fix meals just pop in the microwave and in a jiffy they're ready for the family to enjoy.

Watch for more innovations, including specially-prepared institutional meals and expansions of food services. Meal support will be used to attract and hold employees eager for the help in managing balance in their lives.

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