Further to my last blog post on the topic of Healthy Eating in Airports we are seeing more examples of media related focus on the higher level "Best Resturants in Airports" covering the very subjective by nature reviews of several Airport based eating establishments.
Although interesting to many passengers, if we look at this in context of developing a sharpened Customer Experience and downstream revenue capture, we are missing the mark.
A quick look at the top comment on the Huffington Post article (linked above) reflects the sentiment of a HUGE and growing segment of the traveling population. In fact, according to recent studies the healthy eating segment is now surpassing growth stage into prime time. From "hippy grass eater" minority a less than a decade ago to now representing 55%-60% of the US and Canadian Food Service demand of all operator categories. (uncited as we uncovered this during face to face meetings with representatives of the CRFA)
So while these randomly posted "top airport resturants" are interesting and useful to those interested in what "taste" driven choices are available, the numbers point to a total mismatch in delivery when it comes to passenger needs and preferences.
Some are proactively managing this new, selectable demand while others rely on more democratic processes like crowdsourcing and customer feedback loops as samples for demand balancing. The problen lies therein when we do not properly address the group of passengers on thier own terms and simply ask (via polls and surveys) "Choose from the following brands" or "Choose your most likely meal preference from the following list of burgers".
Crowdsourcing has to be more objective and using social media channels does not implicitly give you better a distribution of validity than any other means of looking for large sample enterprise feedback. The demand has to be constantly monitored and samples need to be basically made in real time. This is not a one time survey-it is an iterative process. Getting it right makes all the difference to CEM and of course loyalty as well.
The opportunity to engage with airport menu development doesn't always need to start with meal categories we traditionally think of- sandwiches, burgers, steaks and other full plated meals. What people are looking for are the source of food items in categories such as "Fresh, Local or Gluten Free" or perhaps "Organic" with a full disclosure on how these items are sourced, processed, prepared and stored prior to our consumption. (Think Whole Foods model)
Knowing in advance of these needs and preferenced based meal options is of significant value to passengers. Having a one off airport deliver this as a service is just plain annoying to the global needs of passengers. As passengers travel from journey point to journey point, it would be preferred by airports to be "on the map" so passengers are aware of relevant meal choices and thus have the opportunity to consider them in advance with proactive communications.
The answer is not single point polls and surveys to try to capture passenger feedback at the time of consideration, but to have a forward view of needs and preferences which creates the demand based on time of day, meal type, origin and ethnicity of passenger and also budget preference. We can't assume that all travelers will pay a premium for a meal, just because they are captive at the airport.
In fact, the same model supporting Time Location and Context (TLC) can be used to apprise passengers of nearby healthy meal options which are en route to their next destination. There will be options for restaurants near bus and train stations and of course destination hotels are more than happy to accomodate them.
Rebranding airport restaurants and even making menu changes to apprise passenger needs and preferences may not be enough if the relative value is not maintained. Price and overall quality are also now scrutinized and made public via word of mouth.(social brand monitoring and content curation services)
Airports need to think local in terms of competition, since now there are new connected ways to match passenger demands vs. what the airports traditionally controlled the concessions with little fear of lost business.
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