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the changing face of foodservice

  4 min

trendwatch

The world is holding out for a vaccine and end to the untold devastation wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the damage, however, has already been done. Not just the loss of countless lives or the shuttering of businesses, though those are bad enough, of course. The full extent of the damage done to national foodservice industries around the world, to food culture, has not yet begun to reveal itself. 

Jelle Steenbergen   Nina Slagmolen  Sander van der Meij

Homogenization
Second or third wave lockdowns disproportionately threaten the small restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, and food producers that are vital for the vibrancy and diversity of food. Many have already been forced to close permanently, and their loss will leave a gap that large chains, retailers, and corporations will not be able to fill, despite their best efforts. Foodservice faces an existential threat of homogenization, of losing flavour and spice, of losing the quirky place that only serves mac and cheese, the cornerstore with those incredible sandwiches, that bar with the secret drink menu for those in the know. While some things will doubtless survive, and new concepts will rise to take the place of those that don’t, much of foodservice history may be lost. In addition, 2020 has made foodservice a far less enticing investment. For over a decade the industry has boomed, with more and more outside money finding its way into more and more daring experiments. Securing funding for an unproven concept has become significantly more difficult. Unless, seemingly, you’re in the ghost kitchen, alternative protein, or automation space, among similar innovations not exactly known for their powerful human element. It’s still the people that make foodservice what it is, and the realities of this year have made our industry less appealing for many.

New tourism
The international tourism industry, a fundamental element for the prosperity and life of cultures and countries everywhere, may never recover. Instead, countries are forced to look inward to survive. Domestic travel and regional tourism are growing, and restaurants and other hospitality businesses will need to adjust to changing demands. Some countries rely so heavily on the international market that the current crisis will leave permanent scars, while others like the United States might see the attention shift away from large cities to the hidden gems in small towns and the wider countryside. This renewed focus on our more immediate surroundings may prove effective at combating the threat of homogenization and loss of diverse offerings.

Hi-touch to hi-tech
The role of emerging technologies in foodservice has been growing for years. COVID-19 has only accelerated that growth. We’re moving from a hi-touch industry focused on human connection to a hi-tech industry centered on contactless convenience. While these two extremes are not mutually exclusive, it’s becoming clear that current consumer preferences, whether by necessity or not, are trending toward the latter. Online ordering, contactless delivery, data-driven service, and A.I applications over the entire chain are turning 2020 into a banner year for food tech, and that’s not even mentioning the role of technology in the quest for a more sustainable food system. While some of the explosive growth in food delivery is likely to be temporary, the level of (digital) convenience that food delivery companies provide is set to be the new measuring stick going forward. Not having a plan for delivery, takeaway, curbside pickup or another form of off-premise dining in combination with digital easy of use needs rethinking. The way we eat and engage with restaurants has changed forever. Convenience has become self-evident, and the most effective way to deliver that convenience is by embracing technology.

Big changes
At the national and international level, expect the following COVID-19-caused changes:

  • Increased reliance on domestic and regional tourism as opposed to international. A strong identity and connection to the local community becomes more important for success.

  • Convenience is paramount. The explosive growth of food delivery has raised the bar for speed and ease of use. While demand for delivery may slow slightly, any business needs a plan for off-premise, and dine-in guests will expect the same level of convenience.

  • Threat of homogenization. Lockdowns and economic downturns disproportionately hit smaller businesses that are essential for the overall health of food culture. These businesses often have a loyal local following. Supporting each other through these unprecedented times is critical for creating a vibrant foodservice industry.

We won’t ever be the same

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Offline: This content can only be displayed when online.
foodservice2.svg
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Offline: This content can only be displayed when online.
Offline: This content can only be displayed when online.

  4 min

titel.svg

We won’t ever be the same

The world is holding out for a vaccine and end to the untold devastation wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the damage, however, has already been done. Not just the loss of countless lives or the shuttering of businesses, though those are bad enough, of course. The full extent of the damage done to national foodservice industries around the world, to food culture, has not yet begun to reveal itself. 

Jelle Steenbergen   Nina Slagmolen 
Sander van der Meij

Homogenization
Second or third wave lockdowns disproportionately threaten the small restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, and food producers that are vital for the vibrancy and diversity of food. Many have already been forced to close permanently, and their loss will leave a gap that large chains, retailers, and corporations will not be able to fill, despite their best efforts. Foodservice faces an existential threat of homogenization, of losing flavour and spice, of losing the quirky place that only serves mac and cheese, the cornerstore with those incredible sandwiches, that bar with the secret drink menu for those in the know. While some things will doubtless survive, and new concepts will rise to take the place of those that don’t, much of foodservice history may be lost. In addition, 2020 has made foodservice a far less enticing investment. For over a decade the industry has boomed, with more and more outside money finding its way into more and more daring experiments. Securing funding for an unproven concept has become significantly more difficult. Unless, seemingly, you’re in the ghost kitchen, alternative protein, or automation space, among similar innovations not exactly known for their powerful human element. It’s still the people that make foodservice what it is, and the realities of this year have made our industry less appealing for many.

New tourism
The international tourism industry, a fundamental element for the prosperity and life of cultures and countries everywhere, may never recover. Instead, countries are forced to look inward to survive. Domestic travel and regional tourism are growing, and restaurants and other hospitality businesses will need to adjust to changing demands. Some countries rely so heavily on the international market that the current crisis will leave permanent scars, while others like the United States might see the attention shift away from large cities to the hidden gems in small towns and the wider countryside. This renewed focus on our more immediate surroundings may prove effective at combating the threat of homogenization and loss of diverse offerings.

Hi-touch to hi-tech
The role of emerging technologies in foodservice has been growing for years. COVID-19 has only accelerated that growth. We’re moving from a hi-touch industry focused on human connection to a hi-tech industry centered on contactless convenience. While these two extremes are not mutually exclusive, it’s becoming clear that current consumer preferences, whether by necessity or not, are trending toward the latter. Online ordering, contactless delivery, data-driven service, and A.I applications over the entire chain are turning 2020 into a banner year for food tech, and that’s not even mentioning the role of technology in the quest for a more sustainable food system. While some of the explosive growth in food delivery is likely to be temporary, the level of (digital) convenience that food delivery companies provide is set to be the new measuring stick going forward. Not having a plan for delivery, takeaway, curbside pickup or another form of off-premise dining in combination with digital easy of use needs rethinking. The way we eat and engage with restaurants has changed forever. Convenience has become self-evident, and the most effective way to deliver that convenience is by embracing technology.

Big changes
At the national and international level, expect the following COVID-19-caused changes:

  • Increased reliance on domestic and regional tourism as opposed to international. A strong identity and connection to the local community becomes more important for success.

  • Convenience is paramount. The explosive growth of food delivery has raised the bar for speed and ease of use. While demand for delivery may slow slightly, any business needs a plan for off-premise, and dine-in guests will expect the same level of convenience.

  • Threat of homogenization. Lockdowns and economic downturns disproportionately hit smaller businesses that are essential for the overall health of food culture. These businesses often have a loyal local following. Supporting each other through these unprecedented times is critical for creating a vibrant foodservice industry.

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