Food Service Turbulence
The woes of food service on the UK high street have been well-documented. For those with a subscription, the recent Financial Times headline, “Profits at top 100 UK restaurants dive 64% in a year: Research highlights how 35 of top 100 chains are loss-making”, summed up the apparently dire situation.
Operators are facing difficult business economics – oversupply, overbidding for sites, increased costs (from the minimum wage, business rates, exchange rates), new competitors (home deliveries), and weaker consumer spending.
At the same time, consumer preferences are evolving, requiring continual reviews of positioning and offerings by food service businesses. Both factors have been covered widely, with good summaries in the Guardian, and Deloitte’s analysis in late 2017. The latter highlights the following changes in consumer behaviour:
- Healthy eating: food trends like veganism and going gluten-free are now big business.
- Informality: dining out is now less of a ritual affair, more akin to socialising.
- Digital tech: pre-ordering and review sites mean the experience now extends beyond the restaurant’s walls.
- Experience-driven behaviour: customers want something new, fresh, and immersive.
- Value scrutiny: less disposable income means price is more of a consideration.
- Provenance: consumers want to see a brand’s sustainability credentials.
- ‘Premium-isation’: a gourmet food experience has now been normalised.
- Consumer promiscuity: brand loyalty is at an all-time low, people are more likely to experiment.
The pain for some in the short term is clearly severe, but we can take some consolation in the suggestion that commentators appear to agree with Peter Kubik, partner at UHY Hacker Young: “The industry’s woes should be temporary while it deals with this process, as long as consumer confidence can be maintained.”
As the dust clears, different food service groups will face different challenges. At the risk of being simplistic:
- Small, fast growing concept brands need to find ways to preserve what makes them special and grow within that constraint.
- Middle-size brands, including those rebuilding after a CVA or closures, will be seeking to reinvigorate themselves and their service offer while being focused on efficiency and delivery.
- The major chains will seek to continue to stay ahead in terms of quality offers, delivered at a cost that chimes with mass market trends.
All face challenges. Some are in the realms of menus, branding and pricing. But in terms of service delivery and efficiency, technology can help. What is certain is that all will want their people to be focused on delivering a great service, consistently, without routine admin and paperwork getting in the way.
By looking for digital solutions to routine tasks, you can unlock serious amounts of time, sometimes hours per week per staff member. This can then be devoted to keeping diners not just happy, but loyal.
With natural selection wielding its scythe across the food service industry, those brands which survive will be the ones who manage to craft a fresh, appealing experience.
Achieving this goes way beyond the boardroom.
Checkit Real-Time Operations Management frees your staff from time-consuming, repetitive tasks. It allows them to innovate and develop a winning customer experience from the grass roots.