When talking about trends in foodservice industry, it’s tempting to just focus in on the end product; the food that gets plated up and presented to customers.
However, many of the most significant changes in the industry have come from behind the scenes, whether from apps changing how customers interact with their favourite restaurants, or gadgets designed to create efficiencies in the kitchen.
In 2017 it’s safe to say that technology and hospitality have never been more connected, with an array of new developments changing how both customers and operators connect to each other. To help keep your finger on the pulse, we’ve broken down three of the most important recent developments in tech and foodservice below.
Although first adopted by fast-food giants over in the US, tablets have slowly started to become a more common fixture throughout the wider foodservice industry, on both sides of the pond.
First, restaurants swapped pen and paper with mobile devices, allowing waiting staff to send orders straight through to the kitchen as soon as they were taken. If that wasn’t efficient enough, some locations have further reduced the role of waiting staff, building ordering systems directly into fixtures or tables. These locations effectively operate in part on a self-service basis, with customers seating themselves, placing their own orders via a tablet or kiosk, connecting directly through to the kitchen with very little involvement from waiting staff.
For some operators, reducing the role of serving staff could seem to be a bit of a false benefit; after all, for many customers receiving high quality service from waiting staff can be the spark that elevates a good meal into a great one. This is something that older diners seem to agree with, with figures from the US showing that 65% of over those aged over 55 prefer a service with traditional waiting staff. However, a significant 71% of 18-34 year olds actually prefer to order from a tableside tablet, citing reasons like ease of ordering, knowing exactly which menu items are in stock, and convenience of splitting the bill as key advantages of self-service.
As this younger demographic – so called “millennials” – are typically early adopters of trends that later proliferate across generations, it’s expected that tablet ordering only become more and more popular in the coming years. It’s likely that the spread won’t just be limited to quick-service and casual locations either, as hospitals in Ireland were using a similar system as far back as 2014.
Food Delivery Platforms
Driven by apps like Deliveroo, UberEATS and Amazon Restaurants, the out of home sector is now one of the fastest growing areas of the foodservice industry, and it’s estimated that by 2020 the UK’s food delivery market will be worth around £8 billion.
The most successful ideas aren’t always necessarily the most complicated, and it’s safe to say that the rise of food delivery platforms is a case of a simple idea taking the world by storm. By connecting customers to restaurants and restaurants to partner drivers via an simple to use app, these platforms allow traditionally brick and mortar locations to operate a takeaway service with relative ease.
The success of these apps can partly be attributed to the advantages they offer both customers and operators. Customers increasingly expect a more customised, convenient experience from operators, with most saying online ordering is one of the most important technologies a restaurant can have. Meanwhile, online ordering platforms can in theory work for operators by creating a flow of business in otherwise quiet periods, as peak time for takeaway orders often coincide with slower periods in house. In addition, for locations that already offer a take-out service, these platforms remove the need for a member of staff to man a telephone, allowing them to carry on with other tasks instead.
However, operators looking to branch into food delivery platforms do need to consider the impact that doing so may have on business. The process isn’t just as simple as uploading a menu and expecting profits to roll in, and to make the most out of delivery platforms most operators will need to make some adjustments to the way they work, and the menus they work. For example, a delivery menu needs to take into consideration the fact that items will need to keep hot and retain texture whilst in transit, and as such operators may need to look to items – like our Staycrisp fries – that are specially formulated to stay hotter for longer.
If you’re thinking about looking into offering a takeaway option, then take a look at our blog post on tapping into the takeaway market here for key things you’ll need to consider.
The Smart Kitchen
From point of sale technology, to stock taking software, to waiting list management apps, the modern catering industry seems to rely on an increasingly complex range of systems in order to run efficiently. However, rather than creating efficiencies, adopting too much tech too soon could have the opposite effect. With so many systems to juggle, operators may find they require a lot of time, training, and of course money to monitor.
For this reason, some companies are now creating fully integrated management systems, where data on everything from profits, stock levels, and even refrigerator temperature is available through the same piece of software. This removes the need to spend time monitoring numerous systems, and in theory gives operators the ability to better compare the data each device collects.
If it sounds a little abstract, think of these systems as helping to “join the dots” on how a restaurant runs. For example, operators may be able to see whether certain menu items sell better on certain days (or at certain times), and overlay this with stock levels and delivery systems to ensure that they’re fully stocked for those menu items at the right times.
The end point of this system is the “smart kitchen”; a kitchen that to a degree, runs itself. Although it’s perhaps a little further in the future at this point, one already visible aspect of the “smart kitchen” is automated stock taking systems, which monitor stock levels and automatically order more items when levels are running low, reliving staff members of an otherwise time consuming job.
Another example involves systems that monitor and control oven, refrigerator, and fryer temperatures, allowing both for food to be cooked more consistently, but also for proper reporting on food hygiene standards. On the more farfetched level of the “smart kitchen” scale is Silicon Valley start-up Zume Pizza; a pizza restaurant “employing” two robots to prepare and cook all of its products.