Trend Watch 2019: 4 Trends in Foodservice that Your Customers Want Right Now

Trend Watch 2019: 4 Trends in Foodservice that Your Customers Want Right Now

Courtesy of Fast Casual

The global foodservice market is on target to increase 13 percent over the next five years, hitting $359 billion by the year 2023, which means fast casuals will be fighting for their piece of the action.

"The battle to earn part of this additional revenue is more difficult than ever as consumer expectations are higher, placing more pressure on foodservice operators to incorporate quality into every inch of the experience or risk losing out to more daring concepts,"  Stephen Dutton of Euromonitor International, wrote in a paper, "New Concepts in Foodservice."

The fastest way fast casuals can ensure customer victory is to understand their desires for not only new menu items but which restaurant technologies they'd like to use and the types of dining experiences they prefer. That need inspired FastCasual to interview a variety of foodservice experts for a multi-part series, called "Trend Watch 2019."

Part 1 of our series takes a look at the four foodservice trends that Dutton uncovered in his findings: They include:
  1. Clean and green living.
  2. Individualized eating experiences.
  3. Increasing engagement through gamification.
  4. Connecting with the busy consumer.

1. Clean and green living
As health and ethical trends become increasingly important for consumers, foodservice players are embracing localization, the shortening of distances between the source of an ingredient and the restaurant, Dutton said. Some restaurants take this even further by "hyper-localizing" the supply chain with urban farming because of environmental benefits and the perception of fresher food.  

B. Good is one of those restaurants; it created Hannah Farm two years ago in Boston as a way to get back to its roots, CEO Chris Fuqua said in an interview with FastCasual. The goal was to "Grow food for our restaurants, create an educational community space for customers and give back to the community here in Boston, where we opened our first restaurant. Hannah Farm is a physical embodiment of our values," he said. 
While the chain could source all of the farm's produce to its stores, it instead donates 75 percent of what it grows to local partners, including Camp Harbor View, a non-profit serving Boston's at-risk youth with summer programming.
"We feed, teach and instill healthy habits through programs like our Farm Internship and Salad Days program — which aims to provide and short and impactful farm experience to get young campers excited about fresh vegetables and healthy eating," Fuqua said.
The remaining 25 percent goes into the Boston restaurants, which helps save on food costs at several Boston stores.
"Beyond cost savings, Hannah Farm has served as a place for education and innovation, which has aided in other areas of the business," Fuqua said. "Our farm director, Casey Ballin, and executive chef, Linh Aven, are working together on an ongoing basis to test new varieties of crops as well as new farming practices, which are not only good for the soil but also increase productivity."
More importantly, customers feel good about spending money at B.Good. Insights from a recent customer survey, for example, made it clear that having healthy options and high-quality ingredients are their top priorities, and they believe B.Good checks both of those boxes.
"Respondents indicated that the quality of ingredients and healthfulness were two of the most important aspects when determining where to eat," Fuqua said. "Nearly 100 percent of respondents agreed that B.GOOD sells health-conscious food, and on top of that, the results indicate our customers believe we do a better job of local sourcing and providing quality ingredients compared to other fast casuals. Our mission is to serve food with roots, and when people walk into our restaurants it becomes clear how we're executing on that mission — from the map detailing where our seasonal ingredients come from to the faces of our makers covering the walls. 

"It's important to understand that the purpose of our farm is not just getting the product into the restaurant. It is as much an educational tool as it is an operational tool."

2. Individualized eating experiences
Offering more tailored dining experiences to solo diners in metropolitan cities where consumers cook less and eat out more should also see growth in 2019. Meals designed specifically for individual portions also help reduce food waste and are particularly attractive to consumers with dietary control and calorie counting concerns, Dutton said.

Some restaurants are taking customization to an even higher extreme. India's Swiggy Pop, for example, has recognized that younger consumers in India are increasingly independent and living alone. The virtual concept, which launched earlier this year in Bengaluru and now serves Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata, caters exclusively to solo diners. It delivers each order in 30 to 35 minutes and promises that all meals will be apportioned properly in terms of the size of the meal and its nutritional value. Entrees range in cost from ₹.99-200 (up to $3 US), and there are no delivery fees.
Based on consumer demand and ordering patterns, the company has created more than 20,000 meals, which range from biryani with raita & kebabs to a bowl of Thai curry with rice and a cold drink. 

3. Increasing engagement through gamification
Gamification, which has developed into a $1.65 billion industry and is estimated to surpass $11.1 billion in the next few years, isn't exactly new, but it used to be a marketing tool used only by major brands. Chipotle, for example, first launched an online game in 2013, allowing users to match real Chipotle ingredients, avoiding "imposters" — non-natural ingredients. Last year, it released Cado Crusher, an online game that encouraged fans to smash and combine ingredients to make their own version of Chipotle's guacamole.
"Gamification is an emerging digital strategy for restaurants looking to engage with consumers in and out of the restaurant by integrating games or challenges into the dining experience, creating a deeper connection between the consumer and brand," Dutton said in his report. "This level of engagement can push a brand to the forefront of the consumer's mind and can incentivize them to return for future visits."
Pita Pit is one such brand. Hoping to create some buzz around its spring 2017 LTO — the Baja Chicken Bacon Ranch pita —  it released an interactive game. The Chicken Wave Craze game allowed players to select a chicken surfer and command it to surf the ocean while dodging sharks and unhealthy food. Players received rewards when they dodged obstacles and touched Baja Chicken Bacon Ranch Pitas.
"We created the Baja Chicken Wave Craze to engage with the brand with a gaming experience we've never offered before," Pita Pit USA Marketing Director Patrick O'Dell, said in a news release. "It's hard to say which we enjoyed more — creating this awesome game to engage our fans, or working through flavor selection in creating the Baja Chicken Bacon Ranch pita."
Mori Sushi, a sushi restaurant chain based in the Middle East,  introduced a gaming app this year, which consumers could play for the chance to win discounts on meals. The game is a take on the highly popular Candy Crush mobile app where users can collect points to win free sushi, Dutton said. In addition to the in-app challenges and discount incentives, consumers also learn about sushi in an engaging way.

4. Connecting with the busy consumer
Time-crunched consumers need more convenient dining options, and innovative technologies are allowing restaurants to meet this growing demand for convenience, Dutton said.
"Consumers want frictionless meal options and higher-quality meals delivered to their homes or on-the-go," he said. "Third-party players and digital-friendly formats are catering to the busy consumer, but expectations are higher than ever."

The UAE's Lunch: On is taking on the challenge. The virtual restaurant concept in Dubai allows users to create accounts on its website to automate payment and address details. Unlike most virtual restaurant concepts, however, it doesn't have an app and actually advertises that as a selling point. The entire transaction is done via text message.

After customers register with the service, they receive a menu of options every morning by 9:45 a.m. They must send a text back with orders by 11:15 a.m., which triggers the company to prepare the meal for delivery and charge the user automatically. It sends a text when the order arrives around 12:30 p.m. 
Customers have taken to Twitter to share their approval. Read More