I have been in the foodservice industry, actually working in the industry and later watching the industry, for a real long time. For a bunch of those years I have worked in other countries, watching their foodservice markets, and can say without fear of contradiction that there are differences across all those countries, but the huge reason why consumers around the world use foodservice is universal. It’s convenient (or, they’re lazy…six of one…). By using foodservice, consumers don’t need to cook or prepare a meal or even a snack for themselves.
Although the need for convenience hasn’t changed since the advent of foodservice, the meaning of it has. Technology has enabled an unprecedented level of convenience for foodservice consumers. With a few scrolls, taps, and clicks, they can get what they want, when and where they want it, with great speed. Digitating the market — mobile ordering, delivery, apps, order kiosks, the internet — is growing rapidly in foodservice markets across all CREST® countries. It has been the one thing that has grown consistently in this decade of good and bad news around the world. The foodservice markets in Great Britain and the U.S. were flat (or nearly) last quarter while traffic driven by mobile ordering was up 32 percent in Great Britain and 50 percent in the U.S. Although still a small behavior, mobile ordering is growing quickly and has a huge runway.
Digitization will continue to grow for the simple reason that consumers have come to expect it; and although it’s currently a really small behavior, we can be confident that usage won’t go below zero. What was considered handy yesterday will be considered cumbersome tomorrow from the consumer’s point of view.
The meaning of ease of ordering and speed will be redefined as technology improves and is applied. It’s no longer a choice for foodservice operators to offer digital ordering. Doing it well is table stakes.
I like everything about how global foodservice markets have embraced technology to improve the experience for consumers. Whether it’s mobile apps, cashless restaurants, drone delivery or pizza making robot trucks, the aggressive testing and deployment of new technologies says to me that, regardless of the challenges the foodservice sector faces, it is a vibrant marketplace that puts customer satisfaction front and center. If the chief benefit of foodservice is convenience, then enhancing it through technology can only improve its value proposition to customers and the economy!