Amazon reinterpreted the concept of fast. We can thank Amazon for its pioneering efforts aimed at addressing the promise, “If you want it now, you can have it now.” Amazon is helping us abandon the world of waiting, as we enter the world of now. Amazon gave us the age of instant where we expect to be satisfied in nanoseconds, with the tap of an icon, a swipe of an app, and, the compelling “you can buy it now and get it now.”
The noise around Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods focuses on many topics with much speculation. What does this mean for grocery? What does this mean for brick and mortar? What will Amazon do with all the data? How will Whole Foods change? Hidden in these tantalizing questions is one trend that is already happening around us, one that an Amazon-Whole Foods mash-up can address: the redefinition of fast food.
This is not just about the restaurant business. The meaning of fast is not just about more speed: it is also about less time, and less effort. Keep it simple. Keep it easy. Make it quick. This is taking us well beyond the Golden Arches.
We are more skeptical, less trusting, more demanding, more quality conscious, and more value conscious. And, we want it all to be easy, convenient, demanding less effort, and we want it now. This is having big impact on the food industry. We want our meals to be composed of the best quality, best tasting food that is also healthy. We are choosing unprocessed, unadulterated ingredients. We want that unusual, glorious vegetable; that hard-to-find fish; that chef’s creative cut of meat. We prefer fresh and organic from local sources. We want our meals to be composed, crafted, and curated. We want to participate in the plated production process: we want Knife Fight in our kitchen every night. And, we want all of this now. We want that latest, most chic, hardest to reserve restaurant table in our home. As Derek Thompson wrote in Atlantic Daily, the online The Atlantic magazine, “The future of dining out may look at lot like eating in.”
When Steve Ells was building Chipotle his underlying premise was that the problem with fast food is not that it is fast. The problem was with the food. He would say that it takes no time to make a delicious, healthful, beautiful baguette sandwich. He set out to provide delicious, healthful, quality food prepared to high standards and do it fast. The new definition of fast food is fabulous food fast.
Meal delivery services are already leveraging this new definition of fast food. Blue Apron, Purple Carrot, Freshily, Fresh Direct, and others are giving us varying versions of fast food. The Publix grocery chain provides a similar service. Or you can eat a meal at the supermarket. Services like Munchery provide complete meals already prepared. Just heat and eat. Restaurant delivery is growing. Uber Eats’ promise is that a great meal is just a tap away. “By tapping into the Uber network, you can get anything from our roster of local restaurants, fast. No need to eat out when you can have the same meal eating in.
Amazon is the founding father of our fixation on fast. In everything it does, Amazon has changed the tempo of our lives.
Amazon’s mastery of fast with Whole Foods’ mastery of food has major implications for how we select, buy, cook, eat and feed. Fast food now includes restaurant delivery, online, supermarkets, meal delivery, and Uber Eats. It is all about how to make our lives easier.
Fast food is now so much bigger than the traditional restaurant business.
Larry Light, a global brand revitalization expert, is co-author with Joan Kiddon of Six Rules for Brand Revitalization. He also is the Chief Executive Officer of Arcature, a marketing consulting company that has advised a variety of marketers in packaged goods, technology, retail, hospitality, automotive, corporate and business-to-business, as well as not-for-profit organizations.
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