Tech-enabled customer service among top restaurant trends of 2019: Mintel

Canadian Pizza
January 16, 2019
By Canadian Pizza
In the year ahead, the food-service landscape will evolve, driven by greater awareness of social and environmental responsibility and innovation in technology-enabled customer service, research firm Mintel said in a news release.

Here is summary of the four trends outlined by Mintel:

YOU ARE WHERE YOU EAT
Where you choose to dine says more about you than just your food preferences; it’s a reflection of who you are. With more restaurants extending their reach beyond the dining table, diners are supporting restaurants with cultures and values that align with their own lifestyles.

Restaurants today are showcasing more of their personalities. Diners are literally wearing their favorite restaurants on their sleeves as operators offer branded merchandise from hoodies to sneakers. Branded collaborations featuring limited-time-only items and contests used to boost brand appeal are programs that establish customer relationships and relevancy and build brand ambassadors.

“In the year ahead, expect restaurants to take customer engagement a step further by creating a sense of community with their patrons. Knowing that diners want to align themselves with brands that fit their lifestyle, restaurants can meet diners halfway by taking a stance on social and political issues and supporting organizations that are important to them,” said Amanda Topper, associate director of food-service research at Mintel.

SERVING THE EARTH
While consumers are looking for guidance on ways to be more environmentally responsible, at the same time, operators are realizing their impact and the role they can play by stepping up to the plate to be partners and educators in environmental and social responsibilities.

As consumers aim to incorporate more environmentally responsible practices into their lives, they have begun to expect the same from the companies they buy from, including restaurants. From compostable straws to upcycled food scraps, diners depend on restaurants to draw on environmentally friendly business practices.

“With more restaurants adopting environmentally friendly practices, sustainability will become the new normal, and operators will need to take more innovative steps to stand out,” Topper said.

RESTAURANTS FOR GOOD
Rising labour costs and declining unemployment are creating challenges for restaurant operators to hire and retain top talent. Restaurants are focusing their attention on the well-being of their employees to reduce attrition and focusing on their customers by giving back to the communities they serve.

Labour is a top concern, if not a crisis, for the food-service industry. Technology and robots are playing an increasing role in reducing labour costs, but food service will undeniably rely on humans for the foreseeable future. In 2019, restaurants will find even more creative ways to attract and retain top talent, and in turn, build loyalty in their own communities by backing causes that matter most to their customers.

“Employee retention programs and community outreach initiatives will be crucial for brands in 2019. Although mental health care and sexual harassment protections seem like they should already be basic necessities, these issues are ongoing in the restaurant industry,” Topper said.

TECH IN BALANCE
As technology continues to drive the changing face of food service, restaurants must strike the right balance between operational efficiency, a desire for human interaction, and excellent service to all customers.

The invention of the drive-thru window forever changed how customers define convenience. Today, restaurants are continuing to roll out technology innovations to enable time-strapped consumers to have quicker transactions, shorter wait times, and meals delivered straight to their door. Looking ahead, operators must ensure that new innovations benefit not only operational efficiency but, first and foremost, customers.

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