1. Responsible Behavior
From LEED certified building design and energy-saving equipment to sustainable food sourcing and meaningful recycling initiatives, operators are pursuing greener, more responsible business solutions to save money for themselves and the planet for future generations—and because consumers are increasingly interested in such measures.
Socially conscious business practices represent a valuable way for a foodservice operation to set itself apart in today’s marketplace, at a time when the fundamentals like food and service have become givens.
Sustainability may mean different things to different people, but at Founding Farmers in three locations around the Washington, DC, area it encompasses support of local farmers, “true” food and drink, green design, recycling, and energy efficiency: It’s part of the brand in other words.
Tip: If you’re thinking of ramping up your sustainability efforts, Conserve is a good place to start.
2. Going Mobile for Customers
It’s no secret that mobile technology has changed the way many consumers lead their lives, from communicating by text and Twitter to ordering and even paying for meals on the go via smartphone apps. According to various sources, 90% of the American population owns a cell phone and 58% own a smartphone, a number that’s growing fast, as devices become more affordable and 3G and 4G networks advance; already, 45 million Americans use their phone as their primary device for internet access, accounting for 55% of internet usage. And apps made up a whopping 47% of internet traffic.
Tip: Try our newly redesigned recipe search with new features, so you can find everything from gluten free recipes to seasonal specialties to special-occasion menu ideas.
That means, at the very least, that you should:
- Optimize your website for mobile
- Leverage Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media for customer engagement
- Investigate mobile ordering options—or perhaps even an app
- Consider mobile payment, if appropriate
- Think about customer-facing technology (such as tablet ordering or gamification) as a way to make the dining experience more fun
It’s important to remember, however, even as technology continues to transform foodservice, that customers will probably always demand a level of service and human interaction.
3. Behind-the-Scenes Technology
But the technological advances aren’t just in the front of the house. They’re also behind the scenes improving operational efficiencies—that same tablet keeps servers out on the floor with customers (instead of in the kitchen writing chits), improves order efficiency, facilitates inventory and production, and frees up space once taken by cash registers.
- Space-saving equipment designed specifically for food trucks, satellite locations, and other small-footprint outlets is on the rise
- Smartphone and tablet apps are now available to control everything from staff scheduling and remote cooking to inventory management
- Marketplace, display cookings and cook-to-order menu concepts have driven demand for such technologies as induction cooking and ventless ovens and fryers
Sous vide is emerging as a viable way to merge demand for quality and consistency in high-volume settings
4. Rising Food Costs
Costs never seem to go down. And while most consumers don’t understand the finer points of expenses like labor costs and sales-per-square-foot in foodservice operations, it’s small comfort that they do understand rising food prices from their own grocery shopping experiences.
And menuing strategies are changing in response to food-cost pressures:
- Beef price increases are leading to greater menu emphasis on chicken and other lower-price proteins, as well as underutilized cuts such as shoulder and skirt steak
- Flexible menu formats make it easier to adjust for seasonal price changes, take advantage of supplier specials or changing demand, and to swap out ingredients in recipes
- Increased reliance on produce, grains, and other non-protein items to “anchor” plates
- Better cross-utilization means that products are used in multiple presentations, such as chicken breast as an appetizer skewer and a grilled entrée
- More attention paid to using ingredients to their fullest, such as slicing celery stalks into tuna salad, and saving the trim for soups
Many of these strategies are also appealing to consumers: seasonal vegetables speak freshness, and regularly changing menus support demand for variety.
Get Started: Flavor can be used to differentiate ingredients that are used in more than one menu item, or seasonal products like kale that everyone else also has on the menu. And Nestlé Professional has a deep portfolio of flavor-building products, from Minor’s® Ready-to-Use (RTU) Sauces, and Flavor Concentrates to Trio® Sauces and Gravies, and Chef-mate® Cheese Sauces.
5. Millennial Marketplace
Maybe it’s just the media, but no generation has gotten so much attention for its influence than the Millennials, a.k.a. Generation Y, the cohort somewhat loosely defined as having been born anywhere between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. As of 2012, it is estimated that there were approximately 80 million U.S. millennials (compared with about 76 million Baby Boomers, born 1945-1964).
As food service customers, generally speaking this group is:
- Globally aware
- Looking for customization
- Socially conscious
- Hungry for flavor, novelty, and variety
- Ethnically and racially diverse
- Open to sharing meals with friends
- Concerned about gluten and other food sensitivities
Did You Know? You can address demand for gluten free alternatives with these products from Nestlé Professional.
The implications for the success of ethnic food and other boldly flavored options, vegetarian/vegan items, small plates and other shareable foods, made-to-order menu platforms, and products that address specific health needs (such as gluten free) cannot be underestimated.
Get Started: Ethnic menu items are a snap when you start with Maggi® Thai Style Green and Red Curry Pastes and Minor’s. And it’s easy to tap the made-to-order, customizable menu trend with Nestlé Professional Action Stations.
6. Expanding Sources
These days, there’s simply more to choose from when it comes to selecting products and ingredients for menus. As long as they fit within cost parameters and back-of-the-house skill levels, most operators now have access to:
- Heritage or pastured meats, free-range chicken, and other conscientiously raised proteins
- Local and farm-raised produce
- Artisanal ingredients, such as European-style breads and farmstead cheeses
- Ethnic and imported ingredients
- Convenience and speed-scratch solutions
- Specialty products, such as pistachio oil or branded chocolates
Then, too, a more sophisticated consumer means that items once considered exotic or unsellable—pork belly, Brussels sprouts, aged goat cheese—are accepted with open arms.
Get Started: The Nestlé Professional family of brands includes many speed-scratch and ready-to-menu products, including Stouffer’s®, Lean Cuisine®, and Hot Pockets®. And the Nestlé name is synonymous with branded dessert ingredients like Butterfinger® or Nestlé® Crunch®.