I hope we all realize it, but we're lucky. We get to work in an industry that's fun, fast-paced, ever-changing, and cool. After all, when you tell people what you do for a living and what industry you're in, what kind of reaction do you usually get? The bottom line is foodservice is hip.
Over my career, I've had the chance to work in this industry in a variety of capacities, from bagging groceries and working behind the bar when I was younger to sourcing and marketing specialty ingredients and creating foodservice equipment content in more recent years. All of this experience has taught me one thing.
Pay attention. Things change quickly in the foodservice industry, and the sooner you recognize a particular trend or tendency, the better position you'll be in to take advantage of it. That being said, our entire TMC Digital Media team pays attention, and here are the trends we believe will impact your foodservice business in 2019 and beyond.
Demographics are changing. Figure out what that means for your business.
This is such a broad thing to say, but it has detailed impacts. Whether you're looking for new ways to attract Millennials and Gen Z customers into your restaurant, to bring them into the fold as employees, or to figure out how to market to them, paying attention to the likes and dislikes of the coming generations is critical.
I was talking to someone the other day who mentioned how hard it is to find employees to work in his foodservice business, and the big reason he mentioned was wages. Money is certainly a factor, but hiring today is so much more. And for that matter, so is the philosophy behind your business. Take care of people, and pay attention to the details.
Millennials and Gen Z are looking for transparency. They want clean ingredients. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They value teamwork and sustainability. Money is important, but so is the feeling that people are taking care of them, that employers have their future goals in mind. They want things to be easy but meaningful, whether they're looking for that perfect job or selecting the right appetizer from the menu.
Speaking of demographics, food is becoming more and more important.
Let me make this personal for a minute. I spend a lot of my time volunteering for Rotary International as the outbound chairperson for our district's youth exchange program. Basically, I play a huge roll in selecting high school students to spend a year studying abroad. I read dozens of detailed applications. I interview every student. I speak with their parents. I do everything I can to make sure I select the right student for the right location.
Why does this matter to foodservice? Because every year, out of all the applications and interviews I conduct, the notion of food is becoming more and more important to the next generations. I'm seeing kids take hospitality courses in high school or compete on culinary teams. There are 15-year-olds who know the difference between a white and black truffle. Maybe it's the proliferation of cooking shows on TV. Maybe it's greater influence from parents and peers. I don't know. But what I can say is, now more than ever (and even more so in the future), the notion of food, quality food delivered with transparent and sustainable practices, is a priority.
This has an impact on all aspects of our industry, from ingredient sourcing and distribution to the pieces of equipment used to process those ingredients. People are going to demand healthier and higher quality eating habits. They're going to view food as a status symbol. And they're going to view dining as...
Experiences. Everything we do, every service we provide, is greater than the sum of its parts.
As a society, we're in the process of reevaluating pretty much everything we do in search of a better experience. It's possible things were different in the "olden days" and we're looking to return to that, or it's possible this is all new. Either way, companies are embracing hospitality in order to provide a better experience for their customers and guests. It really is all about the experience.
How does it make a patient feel when the dentist hands her a flower at check out? How does the guest at Alinea feel when dessert arrives, and it's a helium-filled, edible balloon made from green apple taffy? How does a patron at PDT in New York feel when he enters the bar through a hidden door in a phone booth? How do the travelers feel when they can kill time during their layovers playing mini-golf out on the veranda?
These are all experiences. But how do they make us feel? That's the difference between an experience rooted in hospitality versus one rooted in a more basic, service-based mentality.
How we market and provide information to our buyers is also changing.
Actually, it's already changed, and it's been changing for years. Today, people research foodservice equipment and where to find the latest trendy ingredient in different ways. More often than not, though, they're going to the web for their answers. In fact, by the time someone comes to you to buy a case of chocolate or a spiral mixer, they've already determined what they want to buy based on research they've already done.
The bottom line is people search for information on the web, and it's the companies that provide that information that are going to have a leg up on influencing those buyers. The question becomes, if you're not the one producing that content your buyers are researching, who is?