Walter Seib, CEO of HMSHost International. Image: HMSHost International

Understanding what our guests really want

Those who want to exploit successful Food & Beverage (F&B) locations at high traffic locations would do well to immerse themselves in the needs of the guests. This statement may seem obvious, but it’s really not that simple.


By Walter Seib

What guests really want – during a visit to an airport, train station, or shopping center – is a combination of personal and external factors, depending on both the disposition and the attitude of the guests as well as the circumstances surrounding a specific visit or trip. HMSHost International’s goal is to create the perfect place for every guest at any time, depending on their state of need.

In order to garner attention from guests, you really have to immerse yourself in their underlying needs. Therefore, we, as the global market leader in F&B at high-traffic locations, have significantly progressed in addressing our guests’ needs over the last few years. In fact, that turned out to be one of the drivers of our success. Since traditional socio-demographic classifications of guests by gender, age, and level of education no longer provide the appropriate basis for a well-balanced offering, we consider thorough consumer research as the cornerstone of every development path.

We have developed our own consumer segmentation for travel venues. This classification is based on an in-depth international quantitative study – our Tribe Study ® – which was set up and commissioned by Autogrill and HMSHost International. When a new concept is being developed, we always start off with the insights derived from these profiles.

We believe that, if you take the wishes of your guests seriously, you must do everything in your power to get to the bottom of their behavior, motives, and key drivers. The Tribe Study ®, which is continuously fine-tuned, has generated an innovative classification of travelers. It recognizes six profiles based on attitude, basic preferences, and actual consumer behavior. Each tribe displays different, characteristic travel and purchasing behavior, experiencing certain drivers and barriers to decide whether or not to buy something while on the move.

In addition, each tribe clearly emphasizes different specific criteria for the assessment of our concepts. Nail biters, for instance, are predominantly focused on efficiency and can be tempted by playing on convenience. Life enrichers distinguishes “explorers” who have grown accustomed to affluent means and who always look for surprising new and high-quality concepts.

Our origin lies in international airports, but we can also be found at other types of high-traffic locations around the world, such as train stations and shopping areas. The fact that we constantly look for a perfect mix of pace, comfort, convenience, and a high level of service creates interesting opportunities in other growing markets.

For some time now, we have observed that eating in travel areas is no longer regarded as a refueling break between destinations; instead, it has become its own meaningful experience. The captive audience seems to have become consumers who voluntarily visit travel areas, tempted by the extensive F&B offer. Shopping areas are subject to the same shift. “Eating is the new shopping”, is a slogan we frequently use. Functional shopping has grown into a leisure activity that is all about the experience.

This trend coincides with the essence of our motivation: We boost business by creating places to be. Without numerical understanding, we would be groping in the dark, but thanks to our Tribe Study ®, we know what buttons to press in order to influence purchasing behavior and the level of satisfaction. It also enables us to detect the blind spots in an existing concept and to more accurately predict what will work at a specific location and what will not. When you know how to transform consumer data into valuable insights, there is a world to be won.


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