Foodservice Updates is designed to help foodservice operators keep on top of all the industry news and provides tips for keeping business running smooth. We endeavor to provide the latest tips and solutions to keep you in the know.
An urban-grown restaurant format spreads out
As turbulent as the past few years have been for the restaurant industry, they have also sparked a positive transformation – in how restaurants are managed and operated, as well as in the design of restaurant concepts themselves. That is creating opportunities where they may not have been as visible before. Case in point: Food halls, once largely urban destinations, have been moving out to the suburbs, as well as onto college campuses. There are currently about 360 food halls in the U.S., up from 220 in 2019, according to research from the brokerage Cushman & Wakefield. That number is due to jump again in 2024, with another 124 food halls under development across the country, and is expected to climb even higher later this decade. The growth is happening in regions as diverse as Nevada, Alabama and North Dakota. The food halls are collections of chef-driven concepts that are providing opportunities for newer chefs to test their ideas in spaces available at a lower price point than would be possible in a city. The most successful concepts are tapping into consumers’ desire to have an entertaining experience around food. They have a captive audience in college students and in suburban hybrid workers who are motivated to try new foods and eager to connect with coworkers and friends.
Using tech for better human connection
Much as some consumers – and restaurant operators – might worry that technology is gradually replacing the human touch in restaurants, the businesses that can find the sweet spot between tech and human connection are in a powerful place. They not only know how to provide great service, but they also know what specific messages have the best chance of connecting with guests and motivating them to visit repeatedly. This recent Fast Company interview with restaurateur Danny Meyer demonstrates what can happen when that is missing: Meyer shared a story about an occasion when his restaurants sent out a mass email to all customers on their list. At the time, the restaurants were trying to fill tables during a snowstorm, and the email invited guests to bring their own bottles of wine to the restaurant and have them served with no corkage fee. But for the email recipients who didn’t drink alcohol, the message did not connect (at best) and in some cases even caused offense. Imagine how that attempt at engagement might have gone differently if the message about wine was directed to just the wine connoisseurs in their guest database, and separate offers were sent to similarly specific segments of guests. They would have ensured that the guests who responded to the offers were primed to have a good experience there. Just as importantly, they would have avoided turning off a guest who had already bought into their brand and willingly shared their email address, thinking the restaurant was a business who understood their preferences. Do the systems you have in place help you create the kinds of offers that connect with guests and make them feel understood?
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