Eat and Run Becomes Run and Eat

Discussion
Jun 03, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The American diet used to (we’re told) consist of three square meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In today’s mobile society, sit-down meals (at least those at a family’s dining room or kitchen table) are becoming more rare and those consumed at the desk, behind the wheel of a car, walking out the door, etc. are the norm of many people.

Snacks have become a meal, in themselves, and food manufacturers, retailers and food service operators are all looking to cash in on the on-the-go eating opportunity.

Burger King, reports USA Today, is planning to launch BK Chicken Fries this summer. The whole-muscle, fried chicken breast item looks like a French fry and is sold in cup-holder friendly boxes. A box of six will sell for $1.79.

The CEO of Burger King, Greg Brenneman, said, “For me, they’re like M&Ms.”

Moderator’s Comment: Is the traditional family meal at home dead or at least on life support? What opportunities/challenges does the way people eat their
meals represent for companies in the business of selling food?

George Anderson – Moderator

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10 Comments on "Eat and Run Becomes Run and Eat"


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Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 9 months ago
Well, I’m an old fashioned kind of a gal (yes, yes, I can hear the whispers of Luddite in the background) but I confess that although my family circumstances nowadays are somewhat unusual, my husband and I eat all of our meals together, usually at the kitchen table. Occasionally in front of the television and once a week or so in a restaurant. We do not grab snacks on the run. When our children were at home, they ate breakfast and usually an evening meal at the table unless they were at someone else’s table (friends, family, restaurant). Lunch was sitting down with friends at school. Perhaps it was our non-proximity to a glut of fast food joints but I prefer to think it was the way we raised them and chose to live as a family. (Ooops, there’s that c-word again.) The way families eat/snack nowadays pains me enormously and I see massive opportunities for retailers to try and steer them back to a more cohesive lifestyle. Although manufacturers do their absolute very best… Read more »
Zel Bianco
Guest
15 years 9 months ago
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how Nestle is trying to figure out how to get Italians to drink more bottled water on the go. Italians drink more bottled water than anyone else on earth but do so sitting down at meals. The article went on to say that Italians are taught by their mothers that eating on the run or on the street is rude and not very sophisticated. You never see an Italian drinking coffee on the go, for example. Perhaps they take it too far. But perhaps we Americans could learn something from the Italians or the French in that eating on the go, although it seems we have no choice, is not a good thing. It contributes to making bad choices in what we eat which obviously leads to the whole obesity problem in this country and increasingly in other parts of the world. Another interesting way to look at how we can get the best of both worlds is to prepare real food and a… Read more »
Richard Alleger
Guest
Richard Alleger
15 years 9 months ago
I asked our Food Marketing Director and Culinary expert Chef Tom Ney to answer this one for me: Families will always be here in American communities. Only problem, Mom now works a full-time job. Supermarkets must respond to the convenience of the restaurant family meal. They must move closer to “Food-service”…and keep health in the mix. Supermarkets have much more capacity to deliver healthful food than restaurants. Young people don’t know how to cook, so they will settle for a family dinner around a sterile restaurant table. Opportunity: Expand on Meal Solution efforts of 10 years ago. Hire a restaurant chef as a dedicated Director of Family Meals (DFM). Cluster meal courses (soup, salad, entree, side dish) and “menu-ize” the daily items from various store departments. Make it easy for Mom or Dad to gather dinner in a 10-minute visit to the store. As incentive, both the DFM and each department manager get credit for the sale. Baby boomers are just itching to get their extended family together at the dining room table (and take… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 9 months ago

This has been going on for many years, and one of the phrases was ‘dashboard’ eating, as people were rushing to meetings and elsewhere in their cars.

The CPG corporations have been offering some convenience products, i.e.: less time to cook or prepare. But, the food service industry has jumped on today’s ‘non family’ eating status with better and more nutritious meals. And this industry has created a convenience in call-in to pick-up; drive-thru windows; delivery; and less difficult than shopping the deli and meal shops of supermarkets! Hmmmmmmmm

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 9 months ago

Gasping, as if it has a rough catfish bone lodged in its throat, the traditional family meal at home is on life support. Our society in its zeal for Me-Expression has put greater value on things other than family gatherings around the home dining table. Yet we constantly hear psychological counselors tell us that the “family comes first.” It would seem everyone has a gig.

The challenge to manufacturers and retailers? Burger King’s CEO, Greg Brennemen, projected it fairly well when he described BK’s Chicken Fries, “For me, they’re like M&Ms.” We all seem to be looking for more M&Ms outside the home. And that’s the carrot that CPG companies and retailers are focused on.

Steve Weiss
Guest
Steve Weiss
15 years 9 months ago

We may as well worry why people don’t seem to chop wood as much as they once did. For better or worse, our culture has changed. It’s well and good to be nostalgic about the family meal, but those meals were often autocratic (paternalistic or maternalistic) forced eating sessions, alternately punctuated with boredom and sibling violence. Besides, traditional families only make up 25% of today’s households. I guess we believe what we want to believe…insert political observation of your choice. (By the way, the BK prez could use some coaching regarding food similes…M&M may not melt in your hands, but they would be death on a deep fat fryer and conceptually not something that would make you want to eat chicken.)

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 9 months ago
Why are sales of kitchen equipment so strong? Why is the kitchen usually the first room to be remodeled? Why do friends gather in the kitchen? Why is the kitchen one of the top influences in home purchases? Why is the Ginsu Knife so successful? We yearn to return. My mother prepared seven family dinners a week for the five of us with dimestore cookware while holding down a full-time job. We knew no other way. Today, we cook once a week using our full-lux Calphalon collection. So-called “traditional” family dinners are an offshoot of our agrarian heritage, in which most members of the family worked in the fields until the evening meal that was prepared by one or more family members during the day. You sat and ate when it was ready, or you didn’t eat. This was also a time for socializing in a pre-telephone, pre-TV, pre-office workplace world. Further, there was little refrigeration, so food was eaten as fresh as possible. Heavy physical work burned off the calories. Something tugs at us… Read more »
Tom Zatina
Guest
Tom Zatina
15 years 9 months ago

More and more, the traditional family sit down meal is a special occasion event only. We have become a society of eat-on-the-run grazers who weave our meals and snacks into our daily activities.

The obvious opportunity that exists (and has existed for some time now) is for food marketers to offer more items that can easily fit into our routines.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 9 months ago

This is partially a function of our over-scheduled and fractured lives, but also a function of the fact that nutritionists encourage more frequent, smaller meals than the big three. Add to that a lot of talk about portion control in combating obesity, and you have a trend.

Manufacturers can take advantage of this in a broad range of ways. Packaging appetizer-sized portions in a family-pack; so the family can eat less, but do it together. The Fast Food crowd is right to jump on this as well. And increasingly, I find restaurants are will to put one salad or entree on two plates so diners may split meals more comfortably.

meher taj
Guest
meher taj
15 years 9 months ago

I agree that there are people who find putting up a meal not only tedious but also a waste of time and would prefer to pick up a quick bite on the way to work or back home. BK’s new product would surely be liked by these people but there is a subliminal want in everybody around the world to get back home and spend time with family. This usually happens during the night meals (even during early evolution, the man hunted and brought home food and the whole family sat together and ate it). And due to lack of time today it’s becoming difficult for families to enjoy this togetherness. People no longer enjoy eating out every night – reasons for which are many e.g., unhealthy food in the restaurants, growing gap between the family members etc. So it becomes imperative for marketers to develop healthy products and concepts which encourage joint meals at home in the presence of the whole family.

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