Beverage Trends in the Food Service Industry
Food and beverage professionals are constantly looking to get one step ahead of the next mega trend. Until recently, food service offerings were lagging behind their counterparts in retail, but that is quickly changing. The food service industry is catching up with retail, creating products and service offerings that address the same macro level consumer trends. Three of the most important trends driving success in food service include brand transparency, customization and a new, unique user experience. Let’s look at each a bit more in-depth.
Transparency – Consumers, especially millennials, want to know the story behind the brand. In retail, consumers scrutinize product labels and pay close attention to the health claims on packaging. Consumers want greater transparency with what they’re putting into their bodies, and they want to know where their food came from.
QSR chains such as Burger King and McDonald’s removed artificially flavored CSDs from the kids’ meals; instead they offer a juice box or small milk jug. Chipotle advertises locally sourced ingredients and ingredients with an origin story, so consumers know exactly where their burrito came from. The rising popularity of chains that make your beverage right in front of you further illustrates the transparency trend. A beverage seems more “real and premium” when consumers can see the apple and lemon juices fall directly into their cup from the whole fruits – hence the national growth in trendy chains like Peeled and Juice Press.
Hyper-customization – Consumers want the ability to personalize and customize their food & beverage items – they want to make it their own. New technologies in restaurants and bars drive the trend by personalizing products to consumers’ individual tastes. Coca-Cola Freestyle and Pepsi Spire machines are popping up in fast-casual restaurants, movie theaters and QSR chains across the country. The rival machines allow consumers to combine flavors in one cup and save their choices via an app for future enjoyment. Starbucks introduced new Clover technology in some stores, which brews a single cup of specially blended beans per use – a new level of coffee personalization.
Enhancing the Experience – Food service establishments are beginning to create a memorable experience by involving the consumer in the making of their meal. One way they are doing so is through kitchen theaters. Kitchen theaters allow the consumer to see their food being made. Domino’s introduced “pizza theaters”, where customers can watch their meal being prepared. Tableside cocktail creation is another way in which food service establishments create an experience around mealtimes – shaking up a mojito at your table or allowing you to put the finishing touches on a cocktail. Famous for this trend, top Chicago restaurant Alinea set the standard by giving an Oscar-level performance with courses consisting of edible balloons and Jackson-Pollack-esque desserts presented on and eaten off the table.
These key trends mark a shift toward premiumization in the food service industry. From QSRs and coffee shops to Michelin-star restaurants, food service establishments are raising the bar by giving customers exactly what they want – a story about their business and products that is expressed throughout their meal and options that are customized to their liking. To be successful in this arena, a businesses will have to deliver on consumers’ needs in an impressionable way.