The restaurant industry, and the supply network that supports it, finds itself at a rather interesting juncture.
On one hand, rising costs, staff recruitment issues and economic uncertainty appear to tell a tale of woe, but on the other the rate of openings remains promising, store traffic is anticipated to rise and new methods of delivery are creating opportunities that simply didn’t exist before.
That latter point is especially pertinent. Global information company The NPD Group recently published its top five trends for 2018 and number one on its list was ‘click & collect’ through smartphones.
It predicts this will rapidly alter the way operators and consumers interact, leading to order and wait times being reduced and allowing food businesses to serve more people per hour, thus generating higher sales and profits.
The big chains are already on it. Mitchells & Butlers has been trialling technology that connects customers with its kitchens by allowing them to place their orders via mobile. At select outlets of its O’Neill’s pub chain, guests can order food and drinks from their own devices.
It aims to roll the service out across the brand and identify opportunities in other brands for development and implementation.
Success in this area is going to require operators to rethink parts of their set-up. As NPD notes, increased traffic during peak periods will call for improvements in restaurant efficiency, particularly in order fulfillment.
This will have implications for kitchen design and configuration, particularly for those that introduce things like ‘express lanes’.
Just when you feel the topic of kitchen optimisation has been exhausted, along comes another trend to shake it all up again.