Key Foodservice Trends to Lookout for in 2021

With the global pandemic turning life upside down in every possible way, one of the industries to see the most obvious impact has been the food and beverage industry. People love to eat and drink well. Everything has changed, seemingly overnight. The operational foodservice trends reflect the change from brick-and-mortar experiences to a digital, contactless and safe alternatives. 

Digital food ordering experiences are an invaluable resource in the modern food and hospitality industries. However, they can be challenging to implement and manage with trends that have accelerated in the last year such as ghost kitchens and self-serve ordering kiosks and pickup stations. In other words, restaurant operators and hospitality organizations will need expert help to overcome challenges as they take on new foodservice initiatives to remain competitive, keep customers’ experiences positive, and reduce inefficiencies to protect profit margins. That’s because demand is not just steady, it’s actually growing well past the pre-pandemic demands. Consider this pre-COVID demand for hospitality foodservice, as reported  TechCrunch:

“A record $1.71 trillion was spent on food and beverages in 2018 at grocery stores and other retailers and away-from-home meals and snacks in the United States alone. During the same year, 9.7% of Americans’ disposable personal income was spent on food — 5% at home and 4.7% away from home — a percentage that has remained steady amidst economic changes over the past 20 years.” 

Technology solutions within the restaurant and hospitality industry are evolving and changing quickly to keep up with customers’ needs and demands. Here are some of the things foodservice and hospitality leaders need to know about foodservice trends. 

The Rise of the Ghost Restaurant

While they sound mysterious, ghost restaurants, also known as delivery-only restaurants, are nothing to be feared. And they may be the thing that saves many restaurant chains. These raw shell restaurants have been popping up more and more frequently across the country, and the trend will likely continue to increase for years to come. These locations are meant for only cooking and delivering food to customers. And they only accept online orders. In fact, they do not have an interior space for customers to sit, order, or eat. The need for online ordering and delivery services has made the ghost restaurant one of the fastest-growing foodservice trends seen today.

Local Farm to Table Resourcing

The trend among restaurants, hotels, catering companies, and others in the food and beverage industry has long been leaning toward a greener and more sustainable ingredient sourcing approach. The move towards implementing a ‘farm-to-table’ style approach has only become more popular considering the pandemic and shutdowns as food and beverage programs scramble to save money, boost local economies, and meet customer needs. Technology’s powering a new degree of visibility in the farm-to-table style, says AgriTechTomorrow:

“To avoid spoilage at the farm, farmers are using IoT technologies, including sensors and drones, to monitor production. Then, there needs to be an unbroken chain of custody during transportation, using information systems to ensure the delivery of fresh food from farm to table, whether it is delivered to a grocery store, or restaurant. This involves real-time monitoring of the shipment while in transit.”

At the same time, today’s consumers are conscious of the harm coming out of the COVID crisis, particularly harm to the environment. And according to FSR Magazine, they are anxious to undo some of that harm by increasing their use and business with sustainable foodservice companies. That amounts to enjoying meals from companies that have committed to sustainably-sourced ingredients, lowered their use of plastics and used technology to provide transparency through and through. 

In response, fast-food chain suppliers collaborate with local chefs and farmers to track the full food supply chain, using the Internet of Things, sensors and blockchain to follow the whole process. That creates an affordable, healthy, and eco-friendly strategy that aligns perfectly with what people expect of the future of food technology, conserving resources and still getting what they want. That’s why it’s one of the foodservice trends that can significantly impact the restaurant’s future.

Pickup Friendly Food Options Offer a Safer, Contactless Experience

This is one trend that has emerged quite clearly during the pandemic. It is the desire for quick and easy meal options that minimize the number of times customers must be in a restaurant and around other people. With “grab and go” style outlets, guests take control and speed. They can grab small, pre-packaged, or easy-to-prepare meals on their schedule and terms. 

Next, they use mobile payment processors and even ordering ahead to get custom grab-and-go options faster. It’s a tech-driven, fast interaction that’s built for pickup or even delivery, which are both critical needs in hospitality. But let’s consider another issue and why pickup-friendly options are becoming more popular.

Part of the challenges seen over the last year has been reducing the risk of contact across food kiosks. And these “grab and go” style strategies make it even more “contactless,” if possible. For that reason, more companies are turning to technology, letting apps manage the payment process, unlocking the kiosk, and more. Little Caesar’s Pizza Portal Pickup is one example of a chain using this concept, says QSR Magazine. 

They may involve using mobile-enabled kiosks or even remodeled pickup areas that interact with guests across their personal devices. It’s largely up to each brand’s strategy. Just like the grab-and-go, ready-made pizzas at some chains, this foodservice trend is far from new. However, it gained steam and a whole new practical application as the world tries to get back on its feet. And companies are further refining their menus to fit a mobile ordering experience, enabling pickup friendly cuisine like the family-style meals Cici’s Pizza rolled out, and more. And perhaps the latest change using technology is tracking food location and safety by simply interacting with guests in real-time via apps and by placing seals on meals for pickup or delivery.

Technology-Driven Foodservice Trends and Ordering Services

Many hotels and restaurants in the hospitality industry have had to make changes and embrace many in-demand technology foodservice trends to stay afloat during the pandemic lock-downs. Many are now embracing technology by using services like on-screen menus, mobile ordering, contactless food pickup and delivery, and other tech-based tools. Not only does this help to reduce the severity of income loss, but it also helps keep more staffers employed and helps the business stay afloat. 

Additionally, the implementation of foodservice kiosks can go a long way in reducing face-to-face interactions. And kiosks can also be a bit of a misnomer. Yes, it is possible to order full meals through a kiosk. However, the rise of the smartphone has given kiosks a new life. Instead of merely using an individual kiosk order, it could be retooled to allow customers to seamlessly access the menu, payment options, and pick up food. How? To answer that question, restaurateurs need to think about the state of online ordering itself. Online order, mobile apps, easy to clean touch screens, and other changes can make the hospitality and restaurant industries safer while keeping them profitable at the same time.

Align Your Brand With the Top Foodservice Trends in Hospitality by Partnering With Tacit

Restaurant and food venues are likely not going to go back to pre-pandemic status any time soon. Buffets and open condiment bars have vanished, and a contactless, digital solution is king in most places. Seating, capacity changes, and queue-line adjustments will be the new norm. However, the inherent technology side, as well as a few areas that require less technology, will define the future of hospitality foodservice. Learn how these foodservice trends will help hospitality servicers survive and come out on top, and find out how to get started by contacting Tacit today.

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