Future Of Restaurants – Learning From International Restaurants Conference

The 100th Restaurants Show or Conclave happened earlier last month in May, 2019 at Chicago, USA. I had the pleasure of attending it and getting to see all the cool advancement in kitchen equipment, the focus on Food Processing & Safety, and all the tech innovations in both Software & Hardware to empower restaurants to operate more efficiently than ever before. I must say that I really admired the beautiful and magnificent venue – McCormick Place @ Chicago

Some of the stats that they had presented were pretty staggering:

– 1 Million+ Restaurants in USA

– Restaurants industry market segment is $850 Billion and will soon cross $1 Trillion by 2022

– Restaurants Industry is only next to the Retail Industry which is at $5 Trillion in the USA.

– 10% of the US workforce work in the Restaurants industry.

When we started Sigaram Tech, we noodled on a whole bunch of ideas in different industry segments. From a bit of personal liking and quite a bit of market research and analysis, we realized that the Food Tech space was going through an immense phase of change and disruption. Although quite a few of the concepts & products that we had planned to hit the market did not pan out exactly as we would have wanted in the Indian market, I am super thrilled to see that many of the innovations and go-to-market (GTM) strategies that we had envisioned earlier, to now being rolled out and already being experimented, implemented, sometimes adopted in full scale in many of the restaurants sectors in the USA.

This is a mixed excitement for me personally, as I am super thrilled that my team was creative and farsighted to envision the future more than a year ago itself… from Chennai…India… without being exposed to a lot of the technology & industry trends in USA & International markets.

I am also super thrilled that we are operating in this space and have even more reinforcement and boost about our Product Market Fit (PMF) and Go To Market (GTM) strategies!

The Lines Are Blurring:

The future of restaurants operators can no longer operate only in one category segment, but will have to operate on multiple segments or risk oblivion.

With the huge influx of off-premise / food delivery apps, the restaurant industry is making conspicuous efforts to cater to the changing needs of the consumers. Earlier there was a good distinction between QSR and Fine Dining types of restaurants. However, in 2019 & beyond that distinction is fast changing as fine-dining restaurants like Olive Garden, Arbys offer fast casual,  take out services through their partnership with food delivery aggregators like Uber Eats etc. This trend is quite evident and almost mainstream in India as well, with Little Italy, Joan’s and other fine dining restaurants carving out separate space and operational capacity for delivery apps. The future of restaurants operators can no longer operate only in one segment, but will have to operate on multiple fronts & segments or risk oblivion.

Digital Menu is No Longer a Novelty:

Digital Menu is now mainstream

More and more restaurants, of all types, are shedding the paper menu for more lucrative, Digital Menu options as they present Vivid images of the food items and are able to capitalize on impulsive ordering, standard up-selling features, & more sophisticated cross selling of items as well. The digital menu solutions vary from handing out a tablet to the customer instead of paper menu, to installing tables in every table. I can foresee that this paradigm is going quickly catch up in India & other international markets as well.

Self Order Kiosk are fast becoming Mainstream:

Self-Ordering Kiosks will drive around 16B in market share by 2025

Self Order Kiosk has been somewhat gained acceptance in Retails stores like Walmart, Target and others. However, they were more of a novelty in the restaurant industry which long touted to be more viewed as “hospitality” segment with personal touch. However, as noted above with QSR and Fast Casual dining gaining incredible growth and significance in the past few years, the focus has now shifted more to providing – the most simple & quickest way – to get in and get out with food

Automation always trumps manual processes and self-ordering kiosks are fast becoming mainstream. This got even bigger bump when McDonals announced its foray in to deployment of Self Ordering Kiosk across many of its outlets . The prediction is that self-ordering channels will drive around 16B in market share by 2025. During the show, there was this constant hum and vibe around self-ordering kiosk. There were some very cool presentations, talks , workshops , making a strong case for Self Ordering Kiosk. I found one of this article to be very pertinent as well – The Case For Kiosks

And if this doesn’t convince you, look at all the innumerable companies with booths in the conference floor the same / similar theme of Self Ordering Kiosks!

Self Ordering Kiosk are in the hot-new in Restaurant, QSR, Fast-Food Industry
Self Ordering Kiosk are in the hot-new in Restaurant, QSR, Fast-Food Industry

Loyalty Programs Are Here To Stay:

Almost every restaurant wants to offer a loyalty program or seriously considering offering Loyalty Programs, but only a minority currently offer loyalty programs. There was a quite a bit of focus and numbers to back up tall claims on the importance of Loyalty Programs.

Some of the favorite loyalty programs such as Starbucks, Dominoes, PizzaHut were often quoted and used as levers to urge restaurants operators, who were presumably part of the audience, to adopt and provide loyalty benefits to attract new and retain repeat customers.

Everybody wants it, but nobody has got it..

This trend has not yet caught up in Indian market. Although we have 3rd party loyalty programs like Zomato Gold, I can easily foresee that individual restaurants offering competitive loyalty rewards to retain their loyal customer base.

Table Reservation are Gaining Significance

With more queues and customers spending longer wait times in sit-in restaurants (fine dining or casual dining), traditional restaurants are more than eager to offer easier reservations and queues management or buzzing technology solutions to limit customer wait times. While solutions like OpenTable have been there for long, newer startup like Nowait.com, TablesReady.com and others are fast gaining popularity and common place.

In the Indian market, we also have a couple of dominant competitors in this space – Dineout and EazyDiner. The positioning of these players are quite different than that of US counterparts and I am not sure, at this point, which one make the most sense as Product Market Fit.

I believe the restaurant industry is going through a huge transformation and disruption similar to the disruption retail industry has been witnessing in the past two decade+. There are no clear winners or market leaders like Amazon, Alibaba or Walmart in the retail space. This transformation is still nascent and rapidly changing.

Restaurant industry disruption happening now is nothing short of the retail industry disruption of the past two decades.

There are no clear market leaders, as yet, like amazon or alibaba in the retail space.

We from Pickyto are super thrilled to be focusing on this space and have some really cool products line up. Exciting times ahead..!

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