Dale Moser, president of Coach USA/megabus.com, quoted in USA Today.
On The Road, Again
America’s love of the road influenced the hot trends of food trucks and inter-city curb side bus services in 2012. New companies have moved food service out of restaurants and bus service out of bus depots, and their customers like the change because the bus services are cheaper and the food trucks provide transparency and an online atmosphere that restaurants have not been able to duplicate. Both trends serve markets that have been in existence for decades but the new entrants have used mobile technology to create a new niche in America.
The meteoric rise of the food truck business is about technology and demographics rather than food. Generations X and Y are in the work force with a smart phone in hand and a belief that their peer network is a more faithful source of information than mass media. The Australian company Cafe2U is making the most of this trend by opening gourmet coffee food truck franchises in the US. In fact, Cafe2U is combining the opportunities from the growing US demand for gourmet coffee as well as the food truck trend. Other companies in Australia's nascent food truck industry could also target the US as their next step.
Not many years ago a traveler needed to go to the Greyhound bus depot in a dodgy part of town to take an intercity bus. That was the cheapest option but new entrants to the market have reduced the price further by picking up customers on street corners or in parking lots. Travelers can book and pay for their trip on line so the driver needs to only check the traveler's name and drive the bus, which eliminates the need for ticket staff or a terminal. The success of this model is evident by the fact that Greyhound has invested in a curb-side bus company in order to retain market share. So far I haven’t seen any Australian companies participating in this market but given the need for robust data and ecommerce solutions there is a niche that can be filled by technology companies that are not even in the US.
1. In the early stages of a rapidly growing US markets there are opportunities for nimble second movers.
Cafe2U is riding the demand for both food trucks and gourmet coffee.
2. You will face opposition once you start taking market share from existing suppliers so be prepared for hard-nosed competition. Greyhound is using existing assets (e.g. buses, computer technology) to take market share back from the new bus companies.
3. American consumers are still holding back on spending but are prepared to open their wallets for lower priced offerings like cut-price travel.
These are just two of the trends that drove commerce in the US in 2012. If you have advice on trends that Australian companies should watch in the US in 2013 then comment on this blog or send me a message via email or Twitter.