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A Mid-Year Snapshot: 2017 Technology and Consumer Trends

We continue our look at the state of the foodservice industry with a dive into the trends of 2017 to-date. Last week we shared mid-year insights into the foodservice industry, which can be found HERE.  This week we will look at a few examples of trends we are seeing with consumers and technology.

Apps, emojis and chatbots OH MY!

Consumers continue looking for speed and convenience when dining out.  As with most other consumer segments, those not looking at new and different technologies to attract the attention of the digital savvy consumer, risk falling behind.

Apps are not new. But how they are used in foodservice continues to evolve. In addition to order/pay/pick-up apps, we are seeing restaurants building brand loyalty and consumer touchpoints by creating games with food/beverage rewards, ‘old fashioned’ punch card loyalty tracking, and the ability to sync your car (Ford) with an app (Dominos) to order on the move.  Literally. When consumers do take the time to get out of the car to order and eat, they are being greeted by automated experiences inside the restaurant as well. Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Fuddrucker’s offer self-serve kiosks in select locations.  What’s ahead?  Facial recognition at the drive through?  RF communication between the technologies in your car to the restaurant? The evolution of digital/wireless/technology options to advance communication and offer ease of use to consumers is an arms race with no end in sight.

Emojis? They are now more than just a fun punctuation to a text message. Dunkin’ Donuts introduced a keyboard featuring coffee and doughnut themed emojis that can be used to place an order. Language agnostic, easy to use and fun!

Chatbot technology allows consumers to place orders in real time via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Use of chatbots is on the rise and in use with brands such as TGI Friday’s, Pizza Hut, Wingstop, Taco Bell and Burger King. Now you can update your status while ordering lunch.

According to a Technomic Report on Consumer Food Trends (April 2017) a core trend impacting ordering food to-go is making it more convenient. Although some of today’s apps can enhance the consumer experience, ordering through the use of emoji’s, chatbots and even text messages vs. downloading a restaurant specific app can eliminate the need for dedicated downloads which can take up valuable memory on user’s phones.

We talked about the impact that millennials are having on the foodservice industry food trends in our previous blog, in the technology space we see their muscle flexed even more.  Per Technomic:

Eatertainment + Social Responsibility = The Ultimate Consumer Experience

In 2016 for the first time ever, Americans spent more money in restaurants and bars than at grocery stores, according to the April 2017 issue of The Atlantic. This fact correlates to the improving U.S. economy and also shows consumers are increasingly using dining as their out-of-home entertainment.

Eatertainment,” has become part of the story in 2017. In the late 80’s an argument was presented in the Harvard Business Review that businesses need to create memorable experiences—memories are what people are willing to pay for and that is still true in 2017.  Restaurants such as Can Can Wonderland, complete with mini-golf, vintage arcade games and an old-fashioned soda fountain in St. Paul, Minnesota have taken advantage of consumers’ increasing desire for a unique experience. Offering an experience that guests cannot replicate at home is going global and should continue to grow.

Consumers are looking for more than fun and entertainment. Technomic (Consumer Food Trends, April 2017) reports that 65 percent of consumers prefer to eat animals raised in humane conditions. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscience of the food they are purchasing. Leading us to another 2017 trend, consumers are supporting brands that align with their values and stand for a greater good. These socially responsible practices are influencing consumer decisions for center-of-the-plate protein like beef, pork, poultry, seafood and even some vegetarian items.

To satisfy the social-responsibility demands major brands are beginning to increase the selection of natural and sustainable items to their menus, bringing the concept of “food with integrity” to the table. Burger King and Tim Hortons have adopted an antibiotic-free policy, while Taco Bell has plans to eliminate all antibiotics from their chicken and remove most preservatives and other additives from their food in U.S. restaurants by 2018.

With 2017 halfway in the books, we hope you found our industry insights on the direction of consumer trends, technology and the overall economics helpful. We believe understanding opportunities for growth and consumer needs helps the industry at every level from restaurants to equipment manufacturers like us, provide a more customer-centric experience.

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