The food and beverage sector, within the hospitality industry, has exploded the last couple of years with the wake of digital. Eateries and brands are finding extraordinary ways to distinguish themselves, showcase their value and engage with an experience-centric market. Millennials have redefined expectations and paved the way for the rest of the population to followed suit. The days of stumbling into a restaurant at the end of the day may not be over for all of us, however, they’re likely nearing with the up-incoming generations. Business owners are faced with the challenge of standing out in a constantly evolving and competitive space.

A Picture Presentation

The foodie scene continues to boom year-over-year with social media forming and expanding communities of like-minded enthusiasts. Not only are patrons favouring product and dining choices based on the recommendation of social media influencers, they’re also altering their eating habits and preferences. Traditionally taste has been the most important factor in a meal, however, the presentation is quickly taking over. One in five Brits has shared a food picture in the past month, according to a supermarket survey. With that mindset, people are choosing more photogenic dishes with texture and brighter ingredients over conventional cuisine that may actually be more savoury.

Bars, restaurants, grocers, private and enterprise brand labels, caterers, chefs, recipe creators, bloggers, and product inventors, are all switching-up how they present themselves to tap into the foodie trend and increase product desire. The modern Chinese restaurant Tattu is a clear example of how polished plates complete with colourful garnishes can create a new dimension for food and drink, triggering all of our senses, to satisfy more than just our taste buds. In Tattu’s case, floral accents and dark minimalistic plates make their food pop in photos to create an undeniable ‘wow’ factor. The brand’s Instagram page, followed by 37.8k, boasts photos of their salivating menu items and captures the venue’s ambience across their two locations in Manchester and Leeds.

Mobile

In the food-and-beverage sector, mobile apps are most notably activated in the  ‘on-demand’ economy, exemplified by JustEat, Deliveroo and UberEats, and their success has trickled into the ‘eating-out’ culture with operators introducing apps to streamline processes for people on the go. For example, the Starbucks app lets customers place their order before reaching the store, allowing them to pick up goods without waiting in line. According to 2018 statistics, the coffee giant’s move to mobile was extremely well received by consumers and is now ranked the most popular proximity mobile payment app, staying ahead of Apple Pay and other competitors. This standing is strictly for ‘tap-to-pay’ services and there’s no doubt adopting mobile early, entering the market in 2010 four years before Apple, contributed to their ability to attract a large active user base. Since then, they’ve released new features within the app including payment integration and loyalty programmes to incentivise repeat customers, whilst making ordering easy and personalised. Mobile transactions now account for 30% of all Starbucks payments.

Virtual Assistant

Needing to reserve a table in a restaurant may always be a necessity regardless of technology, yet the burden of actually doing the job may be behind us with Google Duplex. The new AI, released this month at the annual Google I/O conference, is said to have the capability to impersonate a human. In the demo video, the AI system made two calls; one to a hair salon requesting to make appointments and another to a restaurant to reserve a table. The Duplex system understood nuances in each conversation and reacted accordingly, naturally, rearranging requests with spontaneous speech within the parameters of the controller’s calendar. Spectators were particularly impressed with the robot's ability to sound human with inserting ‘ummms’ and ‘uhhh’ and other filler words. The Google Assistant is expected to roll out to the public, as an experiment, within the coming weeks with the hopes to increase bookings in smaller service-led venues that may not have an online booking system.  

Convenience is King

Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) often excel in the marketplace due to price and convenience. These items, including pre-packaged food and beverages, are often purchased regularly out of necessity and Amazon has made strides to build brand loyalty and get these items delivered to customers with complete ease - in the push of a button. Amazon Dash is an automated service connected to Wifi that acts as an ordering tool for Amazon Prime members to replenish their favourite items. There is an individual button available for each brand to place in a convenient position in the household.  

The food and beverage sector has evolved massively through digital technology. The dining culture is transformed from years prior with a bigger emphasis on picturesque dishes and social media engagement. Mobile and other hardware devices are adding convenience, eliminating obstacles to indulge, and emerging AI is taking this notion a step even further. As these innovations roll out fully over the next few months, it will be an interesting time to keep a tap into the industry.