In “normal times,” finding and keeping good workers is one of the biggest issues facing businesses. The foodservice sector understands this all too well. With a heavy reliance on students, seasonal workers, and those who see a job in foodservice as nothing more than a way to pay bills before starting a career elsewhere, the industry has faced a turnover rate exceeding 70% pre-lockdown.
New generation, new challenge
Once the COVID-19 crisis passes, these labor issues will no doubt return — and changing customer demographics will only accelerate the need for technology advances. For example, Gen Z customers view the world differently than their predecessors. They’ve felt the impacts of a post-9/11 world during their childhood, the 2008 recession during their formative years, and a second global economic crisis as adults. Plus, they’ve never experienced a world without smartphones — a trait that inevitably shapes their expectations and tendencies.
Gen Zers tend to be independent, value-conscious and risk-averse. Provided the food they purchase delivers on quality, however, they remain extremely loyal to brands and products and are more likely to fuel their cravings at non-traditional locations, including self-service, grab-n-go and pick-up. They also cook many meals at home, a trend that will no doubt remain after this protracted experience of social distancing ends. Reviving the “take and bake” concept and leveraging it into other meal kits might make a lot of sense moving forward.
Technology advances can help address the world that’s coming by reducing overall labor requirements, streamlining processes, and giving customers what they want most.
Tech advances to consider today
Given a return of labor-related challenges and changing customer demographics, several technology advances can put foodservice operators like you in a better position to win, including:
- Apps and digital kiosks to make front-end mobile ordering easier.
- Programmable equipment, such as speed ovens and induction cooktops, to increase throughput, expand menus, and reduce the operator skill level required.
- Display cooking makes it easier for patrons to customize their meals and see them “freshly” prepared.
- Hot and cold holding features to deliver operational flexibility from the same footprint, easily accommodating different dayparts and seasonal specials.
- Humidity and temperature-controlled cabinets and digitally-controlled drawer warmers to keep food fresher and safer for longer.
In general, these advances give operators what they’re looking for: easier-to-use equipment with programmability, presets and automation. In other words, just what you need to address labor-related challenges now and in the future.
And others to anticipate down the road
Be on the lookout for trends and technologies on the horizon that may make the cooking process even simpler, expand menus even more, and allow for even greater customization by customers.
- Connectivity to integrated data recording and remote control by smartphone has been touted for years and the “Internet of Things” may finally facilitate it for foodservice equipment.
- Strange as it sounds, 3D printing may be another way to reduce reliance on labor. After all, it has already been used to make chocolates!
- Dayparts will continue to blur with less emphasis on dinner and more on smaller, frequent, “quality” snacking.
Ultimately, the consumer wants a great-tasting meal and exceptional service. They’re less interested in novelty than having expectations met. Using technology to do that consistently will drive customer loyalty, evangelism for your brand and sustained growth. At Hatco, we can help you capitalize on today’s technology trends with an exceptional line of products. Check us out today — and remember we’re always here to help!