BLOG: Hospitality Matters: Top 10 Industry Trends

“Progress is impossible without change” – George Bernard Shaw

Change is irresistible. Through the years, industries have been re-shaped by trends time and time again. Our industry, The restaurant industry is no stranger to these shifts. Some trends have a flash impact, stirring minor changes temporarily and soon fizzling out. Some however, are everlasting making gigantic changes in the way things work. Whether short-lived or eternal, it is the continual shifting of trends that keeps us restaurateurs on our toes. This for me, is what makes being in this field of work so exciting. Being five outlets old, I have often found myself either a victim or a beneficiary of industry trends throughout the years. From experience, if there’s anything that I’ve learnt it’s this – ‘You snooze, You lose’. Only those business owners who have been able to keep an eye on where the industry is going have been able to keep up with it. That being said, we’re mid way through 2017 and questions are being asked. What’s currently going on in the restaurant industry? What and where is the shift? Where’s the industry headed?

In this issue of Hospitality Matters, I take the opportunity to shed light on the top 10 industry trends that are impacting us in more ways than one.

#1  The (Shared) Economy

No matter where you go and what you read, the term ‘Shared Economy’ keeps popping up. Those of you that read my blogs (thank you) would understand what I’m talking about. Today we live in a new consumer age. An age where a fresh breed of consumers aka The Mass Affluents are leading the revolution. Mass Affluents are middle class consumers who are becoming the single most important consumer demographic due to the size of their combined consumer spending power. These smart, savvy, cosmopolitan consumers are also leading to the proliferation of the shared economy by preferably seeking access to goods and services as opposed to ownership. This trend has given rise to some of the biggest disruptions on the planet including Airbnb and Uber. Expect to see more disruptions in the shared economy space going forward which after all most importantly benefit you, the consumer!

 #2 The Consumer Journey

In the good ol’ days, a restaurant owner only had to worry about his customer journey from the second the customer walks into the venue to the second he leaves. Today, the restaurateur and his team continue to remain responsible for the customer’s journey long before he actually walks into the restaurant and for a long time after he leaves the premises.

How and Why? I credit the huge social media penetration amongst consumers! Information today is being communicated, transmitted and shared faster than ever before. South East Asia has some of the highest penetration of social network usage among internet users compared to anywhere else in the world. More than a third of mass affluents in Asia, about 36% post comments and reviews of their dining experiences online. Getting through to the consumer today is a long process. Let’s walk through it. First, the restaurateur has to focus on his social media presence to entice his consumers into coming to dine at his restaurant. Not only that he has to ensure the consumer has the means to make a booking at the restaurant via a social network (Ie. Facebook, Instagram, Email, Line, WhatsApp – basically everything in the digital universe). Once the customer has dined at the venue,  the customer leaves and you’d think it’s over – you’re wrong. Today it is imperative for restaurateurs to manage customer expectations long after the customer has left the restaurant. We need to ensure the consumer goes back into his digital universe, shares his experience (photos, mentions, etc.) on Instagram or Facebook and writes great reviews about their experience on the gazillion customer-oriented online platforms out there. Oh and did I forget to mention – these reviews need to be responded to right-away! All in all, relationships between restaurants and consumers have become more complicated. They’re now like marriages – demand  long-term commitment, are difficult to please and require a lot of content management!

 #3 Trending Consumer Cognition

Mass-affluents today aren’t only responsible for steering huge economical shifts, they are also shifting the way the world views food. This is the age of the health conscious foodie. People today are less concerned with the price-tag and more concerned with the labels on what they’re consuming. Words like gluten-free, sugar-free, lactose-free, vegan, vegetarian, organic, low-carb, low-fat are today’s biggest deciding factors and the health conscious drive is starting here in Asia. However, many restaurant owners are unwilling to embrace this craze due to the high cost of arbitrating between produce to consumer.Although the shift towards sustainability and health consciousness has not been so significant in Asia as it is in the West, it is definitely brewing. I don’t suggest abandoning your entire restaurant concept but restaurateurs in Asia need to find a middle ground. Completely ignoring this upcoming trend could prove fatal.

 #4 The Female Economy

There has been no other age where the term Girl-Power was more prominent than it is today. There is no doubt about it, women now drive the world economy. They own an approximately $20 trillion(The Express Tribune) in global annual consumer spending and the number is expected to rise to $28 trillion in the next five years. Females are the true CEO’s of the household and act as Chief Purchasing Officers for their family units.The female consumer today is just the type of consumer quick-serve and fast-casual establishments need to attract in order to build long-term consumer loyalty. Think about it, if you gain the trust and patronage of a female consumer – she has the ability to turn her colleagues, friends, family and extended family into customers at your restaurant. Only if she finds the right product though. Restaurant owners need to target this demographic through value based marketing and tap into girl-power to drive their businesses.

 #5 Messaging platforms

Today, restaurants need to break through all the noise in the digital universe to try and grab the attention of their target audience. Who’s in the digital universe? Let me break it down for you. As of today, Facebook has 1.86 billion users worldwide, there are 1.2 billion users on WhatsApp and 400 million users on Facebook messenger. Messaging Apps have become the de-facto way of communications and there’s no sign of it slowing down. What are these people doing on these platforms? Everything. They talk to each other, air out their dirty laundry, share their day to day experiences. These messaging platforms are going to become more significant not only in terms of peer to peer communications but more importantly in terms of business to consumer interactivity and communications!

 #6 The rise of Video Content

There are about 22 billion daily video views between Snapchat, Facebook and Youtube around the world. Research shows that the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Reaching out to these easily distracted consumers through static content simply doesn’t get attention anymore. Restaurateurs and are embracing content and storytelling using video as a medium like never before and giving rise to movie directors within our own households!

 #7 The Viral Age

Restaurants today are not only catering food for the the taste-buds but also for the eyes! We live in a snap-before-eat generation where no-matter where you go, the camera eats before you do. Restaurants need to now compete with each other not only for the perfect dish but also for the perfect shot. You just never know what’s going to go viral. Many businesses are now moving away from traditional marketing and welcoming digital marketing initiatives to promote their products by tapping into the never-ending pool of bloggers and instagrammers. These bloggers have a colossal reach – a single video introducing Havana Social in Bangkok went viral garnering so much attention that we actually cancelled our Grand Opening Party! Forget billboards and expensive ads in magazines – I say bloggers are the biggest marketing tools for restaurants today!

#8 Death of All Day Dining

The growth of story driven restaurant concepts brings us to the topic of the Hotel All Day Dining. Hoteliers – this is for you. The All Day Dining phenomenon is dying and rightly so. They are just too generic and serve up an overall undesirable experience. Besides bringing in the customers during breakfast time, they bleed money providing no return on investment for owners. Where’s the excitement in going back to the all-day-dining generic restaurant that you just had breakfast in this morning?! The solution? Convert the All Day Dining into a specialty restaurant and use the venue as a breakfast space in the morning. Contrary to concerns, this works extremely well. We’ve done it ourselves with our specialty restaurant Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology and revenues are up 10x compared to our previous all day dining outlet!

#9 Technology & Tools

How can we talk about trends and there not be a point on technology? Technology is now serving up the future of F&B through online reservations and table management. Consumers no longer want to hold the line for hours to make a reservation at their desired restaurant so technological advances like online reservation system allows for them to make quick reservations and cancellations without having to deal with a third person. This same platform is able to handle the restaurant’s table management efficiently while collecting valuable customer data!

#10 Food Delivery on Steroids

Today, hungry city-dwellers are able to order and enjoy their favourite meals on their mobile phones from their go-to restaurants. There are new food delivery apps popping up every few months, market valuations of delivery apps growing exponentially and huge dog-eat-dog competition between the major players to grab market share. And the scary part is, this is just the beginning. According to a recent Mckinsey study, the market for food delivery stands at €83 billion, or 1 percent of the total food market and 4 percent of food sold through restaurants and fast-food chains. In my opinion, the restaurant industry needs to embrace food-delivery whether it is investing in partnerships with efficient and effective food-delivery service providers or creating their own in-house delivery services. Having said that, I do worry and vent about the huge commissions us restaurateurs have to pay (in the range of 25-30% of the bill) and I’m hoping this is not going to be a repeat of what the online travel agents aka OTA’s did to the hotel industry cause that may keep me up at night until I have to start writing my next blog!!

Things today are changing so fast that by the time we have caught hold of the understanding of one trend, another one has become the latest craze. My advice? Never stop chasing, never stop learning and most importantly never stop creating.

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