We’ve gone from “is the food any good” to “how quick is the delivery”. The factors that once influenced consumer’s decision when ordering food has taken a shuffle in the list. Of course, the quality and taste will always matter. However, in the age of everything-fast à-la-internet, the speed of home delivery is a customer priority now. This has put a great deal of burden on the business owners. Apart from maintenance of high-quality standards food, hygiene-compliance, and profitability; they now have to consider the delivery distance, packaging and time-lapse effect on taste and preparedness of the food.
Majority players, in sync with the new food delivery standards and service models, have evolved their menus and operational chores. The delivery model has, in turn, boosted the rise of Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) and cloud kitchens. Business players today are eager to innovate, use newer technologies to gain a competitive advantage over their traditional counterparts and scale up at a faster pace.
Meeting Evolved Customer Expectations
Thanks to the food delivery apps and the massive competition in the foodservice market, customers are now over-expecting in nearly every department. They want the tastiest food. The food should be healthy. The foods should be priced low. The delivery should be made in less than 25 minutes. These expectations are now the new market benchmarks that – no matter how unrealistic at times – is what the food industry is bound to promise. The promises navigate customer experience, which, at competitive times like today, can either make or break a business. While all these may sound like a big win for the consumers, it has a rather uncomfortable reality attached to it from the industry perspective.
Standardization of Food and Experience
The echo for standardization in the foodservice has gotten much louder to meet the heightened consumer expectations. Food industry players are trying hard to standardize different components of the game. Food quality, portion size, packaging, and delivery time – are all shaping up this standardized experience.
Indeed, standardization in the hospitality industry is easier said than done. While more players are now spending their resources in training their staff to achieve steadiness in the final product, however, the number remains relatively low.
No wonder food brands are embracing kitchen automation at every level. Optimizing skilled resources and using food bots to deliver the consistent menu, using IoT to integrate food ordering and preparation to ensure faster deliveries – automating as many kitchen processes as possible to eliminate workflow inefficacies and deliver a consistent product. Investment in new technological solutions also takes care of otherwise labor-intensive and repetitive chores, freeing the workforce to handle more skill-related tasks in the kitchen.
Deciding Standalone or Portfolio Menu
Once past the challenges of matching new customers’ expectations, comes another trial. You need to have a well-thought menu that covers the required cuisines. Admittedly, since consumer demand is growing for healthier, global as well as local/ cultural food, it only makes sense to have a diverse menu for mass appeal. It also hits the right chord of exercising choice, especially for the millennials
However, having a portfolio menu is a costly affair. To that, managing inventory and maintaining superior quality are other challenges. Interestingly, these also have a simpler solution. The adequate ease of adding, changing or customizing recipes to enjoy certain economies of scale is possible through kitchen automation. In fact, firms who have embraced automation and AI in the kitchen space have already seen as much as a 70 percent reduction in food wastage through the application of machine learning and data sciences. Moreover, by being able to predict demand, many of them have been able to reduce the delivery time by 20-30 percent.
Serving the Price-sensitive Consumer
If one hasn’t priced the foods affordably, there are tens of equally good competitors ready to win away from their prospective customers. So, even when the well-prepared foods deserve a high price tag, the home-delivered meals and snacks must be affordable per the financial standing of the segments that are been targeted. While the big food chains effectively tackle this by actually lowering their price and covering that profit margin through an increased sales volume, it’s not leisure that the startups and smaller businesses have.
Food technology can be a savior here, eliminating pilferage, speeding the operations and lessening dependency on a skilled workforce. Many food brands are already seeing a significant cut in expense and boost in revenue by deploying advanced kitchen technology. The new-age machines and appliances are a boon. They take much lesser space, do multiple chores, maintain high food safety standards and reduce wastage. All these, collectively, help restaurant owners achieve greater results at a much lesser cost or investment.
Outside technology, the new models like cloud kitchens and QSR have answered several other problems in the food delivery market, including the high costs of real estate, services, and marketing that restaurants have to incur. In short, even in the face of higher expenses, there exist plenty of opportunities to save money in different stages of the operation and workflow.
Ensuring Last-Mile Customer Service
The idea of “good customer experience” has taken a big shift in the last decade, and it will continue to evolve. The quality and taste of food are fundamental that customers almost certainly assume as given. For an enhanced and wholesome experience though, they now need much more. They don’t only care about how the food is prepared, but also heed to various other elements attached; including delivery time, packaging, brand communication and ease of payment.
Packaging, in particular, has gone beyond just wrapping. Restaurants are now leveraging interesting packaging solutions that keep the food warm and fresh – and, at the same time, reflect brand value. Communication with customers is well thought of and is an extension of the food brand experience. The billing procedures are quick and smooth, seamlessly integrating business CRM with payment gateways.
While food remains the heart and soul of the business. But to beat market competition and adapt to the changing requirements, it is these additional frills that a business requires.
Tradition to Automation
Contradictory it may sound but running a food business today is difficult, but also quite lucrative. There exist plenty of opportunities in the market that new players can leverage on. However, the existing trends do make maintaining good food quality and the customer experience in the time of quick deliveries a bit challenging. These challenges, however, can be tackled and managed with kitchen automation, the next leap in technology in the hospitality industry. Top restaurant chains are already using smart kitchen and kitchen robotics as an answer to the newer needs and models – to maintain high quality in foods, provide a satisfying experience to customers, scale business and increase revenue share.
The next-gen food tech of today can easily help food businesses manage multiple cuisines, customize recipes at large scale, and control the overall cost. Of course, food bots and other technologies aren’t an end-all-be-all answer to the challenges business owners face every day. But at a time where the need for speedy deliveries tests the quality of food and profitability of the business, the latest kitchen tech is definitely something business owners must invest in extensively in the coming days.