Bringing technology and automation into the foodservice industry should be about making the operation more efficient, rather than replacing people. Due to the nature and ease of the delivery market, customers more and more will venture out to visit restaurants because of the experience they have there and the interaction with people. If they didn’t want that, they could stay at home and have food delivered. Therefore, it is critical that customers should have an overall positive experience, including with the staff who serve them.
Technology should be used to free up time in the organisation – from front of house, through to bookkeeping, to enable the business to invest more in the customer experience (service), rather than focus on admin. Casual dining chains have laid the groundwork in terms of introducing the concept of technology so nowadays people are not surprised to see technology being used in restaurants. This year I have already seen that smaller operators have been forced to adapt to this trend and are becoming less intimidated by tech.
Operators reducing costs and growing margins
I absolutely agree that operators should beware the impact that aggregators have on their margins. When aggregators first emerged, they were useful to restaurants to reach a different segment of the market online or through delivery, but this quickly began to cannibalise their existing customer base, causing a dramatic impact on margins. Now, other technology platforms are available which can provide the same service, without the commission and without the operator needing to give up control of customers and data. In my opinion, the aggregators themselves may need to start adapting soon.
Personalisation vs the element of surprise
While it is important for operators to get to know their customers and offer them rewards and personalised service to make them feel valued, I believe that the element of surprise should be encouraged. Nowadays, it is very easy to live in a bubble, with your preferences reinforced by recommendations and suggestions for more of the same through algorithms. But restaurants should be encouraged to experiment and surprise people. I think this is why food halls are increasingly popular. People love to be able to try new things and the industry needs to recognise that. But it’s not just about gimmicks, it needs to be done well and authentically.
One topic that I felt was missing from the trends predictions was the area of environmental awareness and sustainability. For me this is a significant trend. Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact of fair trade on supply chains and sustainability in every area, from what packaging is made of, to plastic vs paper straws in restaurants. Many brands, including high street chains, are taking a good look at themselves to see how they can incorporate this approach into what they do. For example, Nando’s fuels some of its restaurants on renewable energy and even smaller high-impact initiatives such as hot water boilers above the grills to replace boilers.
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It’s not as catchy as: ‘When is a door not a door?’ (answer, when it’s a jar) but it speaks to the idea that in-car collection, and the technologies that support it, are flexible enough to bend to the needs of a business and its guests.
Delivery can be daunting to the uninitiated, and it might be tempting to sign up with a third-party ordering aggregator that offers the service, such as UberEats, but other options could suit your business and brand better. Here we present three different ‘levels’ of delivery, starting with the most basic – and cheapest method: doing it yourself.