Insights from FSTEC 2018
Technology is a Key Ingredient for Future Success in the Foodservice Industry
I recently attended FSTEC 2018, a conference that focused on what the future of the foodservice industry is going to look like. After three days of connecting with many of the foodservice industry’s brightest people, I came away with four key takeaways that I see are changing the foodservice industry as we know it. I am excited to share them here along with some of my own predictions:
- The current buzz on foodservice challenges
It was evident that GenZ is changing the game by enjoying the dining experience in the comfort of their home. This has resulted in an upswing in home food delivery service. While home food delivery services continuing to grow, restaurants are concerned that the quality of the food and packaging being delivered upholds their brand and value. Online and mobile food-ordering companies, such as Grubhub, UberEATS and DoorDash, are an integral part of the customer experience that restaurants frustratingly can’t control. Fortunately, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) is offering packaging guidance derived from insights collected through focus groups they moderate, so things may smooth out for the better over time for both restaurants and their delivery partners.
- Technology providers are focusing on next-gen solutions
I doubt there is a technology conference in any industry today that does not touch on the disruptive potential of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and big data have when it comes to radically changing the way we do business. Much of this was discussed, but it was robotics that took center stage at the Technology Showcase. It was fascinating to watch robots greeting people, delivering food and even cleaning tables – disruptive technology at its best. And while the disruptive technologies were thought provoking, it was evident technology providers still have their eye on POS enhancements and restaurant staff operation improvement functions such as training, onboarding and more.
- It’s still all about the data
If a restaurant can develop a rich data profile about each guest, then the stakes are higher regarding how we can use that data to further enhance the customer engagement. With AI being considered to enhance the customer experience, it was clear from the sessions that Ambient Intelligence (electronic environments that interact with and respond appropriately to the humans in that environment) is equally important. By integrating Ambient and Artificial we will someday know not only what the customer wants, but when they want it and how much. To me, this looks like a golden opportunity to provide the ultimate digital foodservice customer experience.
- Top trends driving the future of foodservice
I think one of the most important outcomes of attending the FSTEC 2018 annual conference is trend collecting, followed by deciding how to react and enhance a company’s strategies to drive a better foodservice operation. Here are just a few I collected and believe you will find valuable:
- AI will continue to grow. Watch for AI-powered virtual bartenders and wearables for team members that will be able to handle facial recognition and immediately seat you at your favorite table accompanied with your favorite drink – who wouldn’t like that!
- Foodservice companies will begin to rebrand themselves as technology companies. For example, TGI Fridays is using data analytics to email customers 30 minutes prior to their regular order time with a recommended order similar to their previous order and reaping a 72% uplift in unscheduled, accepted orders.
- In-home delivery service is increasing to the point that brick-and-mortar restaurants are re-planning their kitchen space to improve driver pickup, ease customer curbside pickup and more.
- Of course, a trend list would not be complete without Technomic’s outlook. Here are a few of their thoughts to get you thinking:
- NextLevel Burger = Completely plant based
- Habit = 32mn investment (test to table), propriety personalized nutrition to your door based on blood tests and how your body reacts to food
- Spyce = A Boston concept that embraces a fully functional robotic restaurant
- Caliburger = Facial recognition ordering based on your past foodservice order.
FSTEC 2018 challenged me to think about what is required in developing a technology infrastructure that ensures a seamless, efficient and secure environment for supporting cost efficiencies and accuracy in demand and supply planning. As we all continue to expand our digital footprint, it is important to take advantage of emerging technologies and plan for future innovations just around the corner—all in pursuit of serving and delighting our customers.