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In the 1950's of "Father Knows Best," dad had a job and arrived home at precisely 5:30 for dinner. The family would gather 'round, eat together and then the kids did their homework, mom did the dishes and dad retired to his lounge chair, with pipe and newspaper in hand. That was a long time ago and nearly everything has changed about America.

The number of cultural habits that still hang on from the time are astounding. The grocery industry has done extensive research on how the new economy, with more women working than men, has changed family shopping habits. Recently the USA Today reported a new Pew Research Center study saying that four out of 10 U.S. households have what are called "breadwinner moms" — defined as "the sole or primary source of income for households with children younger than 18." In 1960, that number was 11 percent.

Retail grocers recognized that more "dads" are shopping these days and have updated their marketing to attract a new segment of customer, stay-at-home dads. Whether unemployed, under-employed or the realization that mom makes better money, men do more grocery shopping then in the past. The days of running Tide ads during daytime TV just doesn't cut it.

Grocers get it — but have restaurant operators seen this trend and responded?

Do restaurateurs assume "mom" takes charge of meals and makes the decision? If men are indeed doing more of the household management, are operators sending the right messages? What makes men buy? A fascinating study reveals:

  • They have lower patience thresholds;
  • Their general desire is to find what they want quickly;
  • They are less concerned with some of the additional costs;
  • They are concerned when being asked for unnecessary personal information; and
  • They do not like it when what they expect to happens does not happen.

Look at your current message and operations method. Do they attract or repeal men? Here is an example; I call pizzerias frequently, greeted with the stale, "Hello my name is Sally, what's your phone number?" This violates four of the five listed above, no wonder I get annoyed. In the drive to be efficient, the impersonal canned questioning makes me less willing to call again. I would bet a few million other men feel the same. Possibly operators need one script for men and another for women.

Additionally, I regularly speak with pizza operators about their delivery fees. Many express concern that high fees will upset customers. Given number 3 above, perhaps the concern is overblown. Heck, maybe men would pay MORE for some type of premium service?

The point is, assumptions about consumer behavior can often be wrong. Habits and beliefs regarding what customers really want may be shifting in an era of breadwinner moms. Ask your best customers and test different approaches, in today's world, mother knows best just as often as dad.

Wishing you success in pizza – Ed

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Latest posts by Ed Zimmerman
Ed Zimmerman
Ed Zimmerman is a pizza industry veteran and President of The Food Connector. His almost four decades of foodservice experience includes food manufacturing and distribution leadership, food industry technology, marketing services and restaurant and grocery operations management.
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