The Modern Operator Latest Trends And Behaviors

The Modern Operator Latest Trends And Behaviors

As the operator landscape changes, so does the way in which manufacturers need to service operators better. In order to help manufacturers make more informed, strategic decisions, the Internal Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) surveyed 1,200 independent operators on their purchase behaviors.

This research, summarized below, provides new insights into the mindset, sourcing behaviors, and purchase considerations of modern operators.

What Motivates Operators?

The #1 motivator for operator decision-making should come as no surprise: customer satisfaction. Providing what customers want is the foundation and primary motivator of all operator decision-making.

Following customer satisfaction, there are five additional primary motivators for driving business forward:

  1. Having the best staff

  2. Having loyal customers

  3. Maximizing profit margins

  4. Driving customer traffic

  5. Using highest quality products

These motivators are essential to virtually any operator, but with so many manufacturers targeting these areas, it’s important for manufacturers to create a specific message unique to their target operators and distinguish themselves from the pack.

What Drives Purchase Source Selection?

Much like your customers, as an operator you look for consistency, convenience, and value in who you buy from, with 55% of operators looking at ‘consistent product availability’ and 54% of operators looking at ‘best value’ as the highest motivators for purchase source selection.

Additionally, operators favor convenient systems of inventory ordering, with online ordering capabilities and convenient orders/deliveries ranking in the top 5 motivators for purchase source selection.

And just like their customers, operators are always looking for better service, with desired services from manufacturers ranging from nutritional labeling, to recipe/menu suggestions, to product comparison and inventory management tools.

What Drives Brand Appeal?

There’s a clear hierarchy of product tier preference among operators. 54% of operators prefer premium products, while 39% prefer average-tier products. It’s important to note that, super premium and budget-tired products are outliers, used only by 7% of operators cumulatively.

These figures are in line with the primary driver among all operator types, namely ‘exceptional quality standards’. But beyond general appeal, generating specific messaging based on the factors that are more important to your target operators can produce more positive results.

Take Progressive Operators for example; they follow trends and look to get ahead of the pack but not lead it, so they value sustainability and local sourcing. This is different from culinarian Operators, who are driven by a culinary vision and desire to serve up greatness, and value product quality above all else.

What Resources Do Operators Consult?

Operators consult a variety of online resources for new products, trends, and advice. Industry publication websites account for 37% of those resources, followed by food distributer and manufacturer websites, as well as social media.

Don’t be afraid to engage through image-and-video based social media platforms. Operators are already utilizing social media, with the top-utilized social media platforms including Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Just like operators, manufacturers need to adapt to a changing market and refine their existing marketing and sale strategies to drive their business forward. By distinguishing themselves from the pack, manufacturers can optimize their marketing to meet the unique motivations, behaviors, and considerations of your evolving needs as a modern operator.

IFMA Food Future 2025, The Modern Operator in collaboration with Kinetic12 and Datassential
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