At a recent meal out, I took a look at the table-top tablet in front of me and took stock of changes affecting the restaurant industry. Customers are beginning to expect personalization in ways never before expected, whether it be in-store entertainment, dietary specifications or even ordering through technology.
Sure, Eatsa may be closing down five of its automated stores, but that doesn't mean technology and data are being removed from the restaurant industry. Rather, Technomic and Restaurant Business argue it will be driving headwind in 2018 for the industry at large in Winsight's 2018 Restaurant Trends Forecast.
"We expect data to impact every area of operations, from marketing messages personalized based on behavioral analytics to hypercustomized menu suggestions based on past purchases to sensors that track staff productivity," says Kelly Killian, director of the foodservice content group for Winsight. "And in the kitchen, smarter equipment will gather data to make for more efficient purchasing, production and more."
Additionally, the report notes that restaurants will need to shift from just serving allergen-free foods. Now, they will need to explore gut-friendly foods as a new frontier. Some are already exploring low-intensity, gut-friendly menu items, while others are using probiotic, prebiotic and anti-inflammatory ingredients like turmeric, aloe, flaxseed and skyr to improve the digestion of diners.
The report argues Baby Boomers will play a pivotal role in the restaurant industry in 2018 after fawning over Millennials for the past few years. It notes that Baby Boomers have more money and an affinity for old-guard sentiments regarding established chains, which can be leveraged into more sales.
Restaurant employees need to be wary of labor matters as federal and local governments begin to litigate the issues. States and cities across the nation are fighting to determine what type of government can set a minimum wage standard and scheduling regulations. Increased pressure on immigration policies could also play a role in the hiring flexibility enjoyed by restaurant operators.