Global trends… from your local take out

Fast foodI have always been fascinated how unusual things can often be indicators of much larger trends.  On a recent visit to Manchester I was struck by another.

Due to a local football match I had trouble finding accommodation centrally so was staying outside the city centre.  As I spent time studying in Manchester when I was younger, and having some time one evening, I decided to take a trip down memory lane.

After seeing the sights, it was time for dinner and I spotted one of the old fast food chains I used to frequent…. dinner was served.

A fine dining experience!

Now, by no means would I describe the Canadian Charcoal Pit as a fine dining restaurant, but to a 19 year old at the time, this was towards the top end of my budget.  It always served the better char grilled burgers and kebabs in fresh surroundings, at least as I remembered.  Amazingly nearly 20 years later, it was still in business, the food and decor still the same.

The people behind the counter were friendly and busy as ever.  Kebabs were being grilled, with a line of pizza boxes behind them standing like a wall, gradually being filled with orders.

However, something had changed – quite dramatically.

  • I was the only customer physically there, for the whole time.  I ate alone.
  • On paying for my food, by cash, the owner had to go to his car to get £5 of change.

It felt strange and then it dawned on me what had changed….  the world has moved online, we have the internet and computers sitting in the palm of our hand.  Everyone was clearly ordering food for delivery from their smart phones, paying electronically.

By visiting in person I was clearly the outlier, not the norm.

Global trends, local impacts

Now, apart from making me feel old, it was fascinating how this small chain of fast food locations in Manchester neatly illustrated the global communications revolution that is taking place.

As this micro-indicator illustrates, a low-level, fundamental shift in a society, a dramatic change in behaviour is underway.  It is starting to permeate all aspects of our lives, both social and business.

As consumers, this is something we all know and experience.  However, like a time machine, being able to visit the same place many years apart brought these differences into sharp contrast.  In the scramble of daily life it can often be difficult to realise the extent of the change underway.

As employees, employers and business owners, the radical and deep nature of this change needs to be understood.  It is going to be critical to keep up and stay ahead.

…. Best wishes for 2017 everyone.

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