In the UK, we are used to turning to the US to see what the latest market trends might be. No doubt, if it’s proving to be big business across North America, it will make the jump to the UK and the rest of the world soon. In the foodservice and hospitality markets, it’s no different. Many trends are being driven by evolving consumer demand but are made possible by emerging technologies. Nick Hucker, CEO at Preoday, the online ordering and mobile technology, explains further.
In contemporary society, the consumer demand is for everything to be faster, more convenient and personal. Cashing in on this, McDonald’s has been leading the way with in-store kiosk ordering and mobile order and delivery. Alongside these technologies it has also been trialling a number of innovation stores to see which have the greatest impact. A good example is a McDonald’s restaurant in New Jersey without seats. In an effort to speed up service, the company has introduced ‘walk up’ windows which are similar to the ‘drive thru’ but specifically target commuters passing by on foot. This has proven a commercial success and wait times have been drastically reduced; sales at this single outlet are up by 5.7%. Given such results, we wouldn’t be surprised to see similar tactics employed in the UK soon.
Of course, not all new restaurant innovations are plain sailing; there’s bound to be the odd hiccup. Take Umi, a concept trialled in the US to shake up traditional food services. Revolving around home cooking chefs, Umi aimed to connect people who love eating food, with people who love to cook, online. It employed people to turn their personal kitchens at home into professional ones; pre-ordered, homemade meals, were then delivered to the customer’s door. The idea added the much needed personal element to the consumer experience but faced a serious problem. At the time, in many US states, selling homemade food was and still is illegal, meaning that the catering model was short-lived.
An idea which has worked much better is the ‘ghost restaurant’ – also known as a virtual or dark kitchen. Powered by digital ordering technology, these delivery-only restaurants do not operate out of a physical location with a shop front, but interact with customers online. Using professional kitchens there’s less risk of falling foul of home cooking laws, and the format allows for greater menu fluidity and flexibility. It’s no surprise that this restaurant format caught on quickly in North America and is now proving a success outside of the US.
None of these innovations would be possible without the support of some powerful software. Core to many of these is digital ordering, a technology that facilitates online or mobile ordering, gathers customer data and feeds into food delivery. In fact, the technology is so popular that the ordering and delivery market has been seen to rise by 10% in the last year, compared to a 1% increase in to restaurant visits.
For restauranteurs around the world, seeing what is happening in different regions can be enormously beneficial. It means you can learn from the mistakes of others before trying it yourself. However, every region is different and with local rules and culture, somethings may translate better or worse, country by country. As the UK and the US look backwards and forwards at each other to see the latest trends, the people that benefit most are the consumers.