Omnichannel eating is a top foodservice trend of 2021. That’s according to the recently released annual food and beverage trends report from Innova Market Insights. Based on how Covid has changed people’s daily habits in the past year, it’s easy to see why the need to accommodate omnichannel eating is important for operators – and could be for the long term: More people are working from home or away from the office, they may be working on different schedules than before, and these changes could be permanent. According to McKinsey & Co. forecasts, between 20 and 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies like the U.S. could work from home between three and five days each week after Covid. As a result, the conventional day-part meal structure in restaurants may need to evolve with it as consumers demand food when and where they want it. Restaurants will continue to be valued not only as places to eat out or order takeout, but also as providers of meal kits, meal segments, branded products or specialty ingredients that can elevate meals prepared by consumers at home. Much like grocery stores have evolved in recent years, restaurants may need to do the same well after the pandemic is over – and embrace the different ways people now consume food and beverage.
The challenges of 2020 are some for the history books. So when food products are available that can make running a restaurant a little bit easier, why not jump on them? Ingredients that are convenient and versatile in the kitchen are in high demand right now: According to recent research from Datassential, 38 percent of foodservice operators say they need more speed-scratch ingredients that remove some steps from the preparation process. They also want the products they buy to be versatile and flexible. In other words, they should have broad applications on the menu and – in case COVID-19 restrictions need to tighten down the line – be easy to store for a later date. There are important labor-related benefits to these foods as well, since they can be prepared (more quickly and with less stress) by a smaller, potentially less-experienced team. So what specific foods might help lighten the load in your kitchen? Datassential says more operators are using more pre-cut vegetables, opting for canned or frozen products in place for fresh, and cutting back on the variety of ingredients they buy. Other products to consider on your menu: ready-made hummus, sauces and marinades, pre-cooked meats, and brown stock reductions that can serve as a base for a range of soups and sauces, as well as add flavor to grain bowls.