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by Georges Panayotis

Not so long ago, the arrival of McDonald's in an emerging country epitomized that country's opening up to the modern world, entering a new phase in its economic development. The globalization of the hamburger giant, which helped it boost performance, also largely contributed to a banalization of its product, and today to the possible beginning of a rejection.

For six months, sector sales have been down worldwide because the lack of renewals in supply led consumers -even the most faithful- to shy away from a company and consumption modes that did not keep step with their needs. America's fast-food segment thought it could develop a universal model, based on very exacting standards, bringing comfortable margins and backed by global marketing.

Food reaches too far into cultural foundations for a universal formula to be able to survive without getting tedious and lacking taste. Local color should be found at the counter and at tables to the greater pleasure of a restaurant's consumers who want precisely that. Desire and pleasure are two essential notions for success in the F&B universe.

This is particularly true when it comes to food. Fast-food is an ever-changing sector that has opened up to innovations and imagination, and as such it is very competitive. The sector's established brands have been hit hard by more ethnic formulas, although they try to replicate the latter by giving greater initiative to local operators. The world of fast food has also been upset by the arrival of new players who have dug up old recipes: soup bars, mixed salads, wok and steamed dishes... to refresh the offer. Authenticity, diversity, freshness, diet... have all mobilized a new generation of consumers (women in particular, who have been a driving force for change), and they are naturally drawn to innovation. The economic model makes it possible to offer reasonably priced meals and to capitalize on other advantages, combining simple casual service and revenue from neighborhood grocery and takeaway services.

Some fast food companies have found the right combination by assimilating territorial cultures and then going global with a certain amount of success. Groups like the British Prêt à Manger or the French Le Duff are producing offspring and even being enriched by new American branches that maintain their cultural identity.

What is blatant in fast food is equally so in traditional restaurants that have grown accustomed to thinking mathematically about costs while sometimes forgetting the gastronomic factor. Long-term success cannot only be based on a capture rate from the local population. A restaurant or type of menu is all too often chosen by default without enough consideration of desires. Caution is necessary to avoid brutal and definitive sanctioning by the consumer once he is given the right alternative. The future will be challenging for F&B if the pleasure principal isn't there...

About Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is President of MKG Consulting. Born in a family of hoteliers for three generations, Georges Panayotis, 51, left Greece at the age of 18 to pursue his studies in Political Sciences and to obtain his Master in Management at the French University of Paris Dauphine. He then joined the Novotel chain, which will become the Accor Group, to manage the International Marketing Division. After developing specific marketing tools for the hotel industry, he left the group in 1986 to start his own company, MKG Conseil, now MKG Group. In twenty years, the group has become the European leader in studies and consulting for the Hospitality industry. The company employs over 70 people in four departments: marketing studies, database, quality control and trade press, with two publications HTR Magazine and Hotel Restaurant Weekly. The company helped the development of over 2,000 hotels in France and in Europe, with offices in Paris, Cyprus and London. Georges Panyotis is the founder of the Worldwide Hospitality Awards and the Hotel Makers Forum, and the author of several publications on Marketing and Operations in the hotel business, He is a regular consultant for several television channels, among which Bloomberg Television, and radio networks.

Contact: Georges Panayotis

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