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Foodservice Perspectives: Change, Innovation, and Progress

Foodservice Brief — August 2018

By David Portalatin, Vice President, Food Industry Advisor

The buzzword these days is disruption. What was initially used as a term to define “technologically straightforward” services and products that target the bottom end of an established market and then move their way up to overtake the market leaders — think Uber — is now a catchall to describe any change or innovation. A disruption is a disturbance or problem that interrupts an event – not always a good thing. Change, innovation, and progress, although unsettling at first, are often good things. 

Reinvented Change Agents

Change, enabled by technology, is occurring at lightning speed all around us. It’s a reality we need to manage. What hasn’t changed are the motivations behind consumers’ use of restaurants and foodservice: quality food, convenience, experience, and value. And while the overall U.S. industry appears trapped in the doldrums, there are many examples of restaurants and other foodservice outlets that have reinvented or innovated in order to make certain they deliver on what today’s foodservice consumers want; as a result, they’re growing. 

Innovative Solutions-Provider

Others have reframed their mindset, thinking of themselves as solutions providers. For example, we know 80 percent of meals are now consumed in home, and although some of the items in these meals are prepared in home, consumers are also turning to foodservice for shortcuts. We forecast this behavior will grow over next five years. 

Recently a major restaurant chain announced it would offer meal kits in some of its stores. The chain found a way to be a solutions provider for the in home meal. My guess is that there will be customers who go in for a meal kit but may come out with prepared, ready-to-eat items, too.  Having a “meal solutions approach” lets operators and suppliers collaborate to solve problems for the consumer. The solution may include providing the entire meal or supplying a component of a blended meal alongside items prepared or assembled at home.

Getting it Right to Grow

My thinking is that the foodservice industry isn’t being disrupted — for years now, we’ve gradually been eating more restaurant foods at home. Instead, it’s going through change and will innovate and ultimately progress. As long as distributors, operators, and manufacturers keep their focus on consumers, understand their needs and wants, and provide solutions to meet those needs, the industry will grow. There are many examples of chains, restaurants, and other foodservice providers getting it right and thriving even in this challenging macro environment. 

To learn more, please contact your client service representative, or call David Portalatin at 832.638.5507, or email david.portalatin@npd.com.
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