Last month we talked about the need for foodservice operators to be adaptable to changes in the industry over the next five years. The foodservice industry is in for continued change as the lines blur between dining segments. Labor issues are creating the need for innovative equipment to do more with less space in an effort to keep up with consumers' ever-changing tastes and lifestyles. All this, while trying to save valuable resources like energy and water in order to reduce costs and increase the bottom line.
Manitowoc Foodservice partnered with Technomic Inc. for a special two-part series to provide operators with a five year road map of how Manitowoc Foodservice equipment can prepare for the future today.
Legislation has increased employee healthcare costs and will likely raise minimum wages nationally (at the very least, on a state-by-state basis). In a 2014 Technomic operator survey, half of restaurateurs (and 61% of all foodservice operators, including those in onsite sectors) said a minimum-wage increase to an hour would have a negative effect on their business. While 79% of restaurant operators(and 84% of those in foodservice as a whole) said a an hour minimum-wage increase would hurt business. More than half of operators said either of these situations would lead them to cut worker hours and raise menu prices; almost half would cut the number of current employees, more than a third would reduce hiring, and many would cut food or other costs, reduce investment or cut employee benefits.
Some operators will seek out lower-skilled workers and rely on simpler processes while they look for equipment and supplies that are easy to use or more automated, with few steps and clear instructions communicated in pictures. Imagine an assembly table that recognizes when a step has been overlooked and notifies the employee, or a dishwasher that can sense the type of cookware and level of grease or food waste and automatically select the correct detergent, water temperature and pressure at the touch of a staffer's finger.
Other foodservice operators will invest in higher-skilled employees as a competitive advantage to showcase their knowledge and craftsmanship. Their needs will include prep and cooking equipment that can be seen by the customers, as well as smart POS systems that can guide wait and/or counter staff through an ingredient's farm-to-table story.
Avoiding Energy Crises
Energy costs are also expected to increase over the mid-term, and some pessimistic predictions include global-warming and transportation troubles that would require alternative sourcing or rationing. Whether supply is hampered or not, foodservice operators are seeking energy-efficient equipment both as a money-saving measure and to promote their eco-friendliness.
Consumers' growing demand for a fresh product will create a conflicting need. On one hand, the kitchen manager needs to keep the number of deliveries to a minimum to save labor needs and transportation costs, but on the other he or she will have to contend with balancing easy-to-hold frozen foods with fast-to-spoil fresh product. Operators will demand coolers that have broad temperature ranges from frozen to room temperature or adjustable zones for different types of product for different times of year.
Smart refrigeration equipment today can track temperature and report to an online-accessible platform, and can even ping a manager's phone when the power goes out or temps drop. It won't be very long until a cooler will notify an employee which box of chicken to pull next or suggest a change in ordering frequency on an item whose usage slows.
Similarly, cooking and holding equipment that comes to temperature quickly or shuts down when not in use saves operators natural gas and electricity costs-and makes the cooking process more efficient. High-speed ovens, grills with separate temperature zones and induction equipment can do the same.
Smartphone technology will continue to advance, enabling operators to monitor and control not only their kitchen equipment but also cases of product in the store and on the way, the HVAC and lighting systems, music volume, drive-thru pace, number of specials ordered and more. As ever more people carry smartphones, expect kitchen and wait staff to be able to monitor (if not adjust) these areas as well.
Technomic sees several operational trends that will continue in the coming years, thanks to consumer demands and efforts to increase business opportunities. These trends include more frequent menu rollouts, limited-time offers and local-chef-driven specials. Also included is the need for ever-more-convenient options such as takeout, grab-and-go and faster service; and alternative locations like nontraditional units, small kiosks, food trucks and catering.
To stay ahead of these trends, operators will need equipment that is small, flexible and serves multiple purposes. That might mean a few small refrigerators that can roll under a counter for holding ingredients to be cooked on display, or a warming table to hold a business catering order until lunch or prepared grab-and-go dinners later in the afternoon. And chefs will get ever more creative with the equipment they have, running desserts and sides through the pizza conveyor, for example, or steaming rice and noodles in the microwave.
Industry expansion will be strongest among small chains and independents. Large chains with deep pockets can steer equipment manufacturers to adjust for their specific needs-even if that means minor tweaks over a long period of time. But keeping up with the smaller chains and independents, who are faster and more nimble, will require a more flexible and broader perspective and strategy.
In onsite foodservice, contract-management firms will grow slightly faster than self ops, so they can dictate their needs and help steer development. However, the menu trends in these locations are toward fresh, global and flavorful foods, so they're also looking at flexible equipment that lets them transition from sandwich making to stir fry to catering, etc.
Two of the fastest growing segments within foodservice will be fast casual and supermarket prepared meals. What these segments have in common are convenience, a focus on fresh ingredients and preparation, the ability to customize offerings and the flexibility to change menus as customer demand shifts.
Competition in other segments would be wise to watch these segments as they stay ahead of consumer trends.
We invite you to talk with Manitowoc Foodservice about how we can assist you in creating operational success for today and the next five years.