How Convenience is shaping the Food & Beverage Sector
Consumers depend on it. In fact they expect it.
Convenience: audiences’ thirst for it has revolutionised industries—food and beverage being no exception.
Direct-to-consumer sites, e-commerce, home delivery, online grocery shopping and cashless restaurants are on the rise as more and more F&B businesses join the race to innovate for the sake of consumer convenience.
The emergence of virtual restaurants has taken online food delivery one step further. Green Summit has capitalised on the notion that diners don’t care if their food comes for a restaurant that really exists—the online food delivery company offers some 14 internal food brands in their virtual stable. Customers make their orders from these virtual restaurants through online food delivery services including Seamless and Grubhub, the food is then prepared and delivered from one of two Green Summit kitchens. Summit had seized an opportunity to create the illusion of convenience, at the cost of authenticity.
Convenience has morphed into an obsession that consumers can’t live without today from travel and fashion to the food that they consume and buy. Although businesses are increasingly using technology in ways that improve customer convenience more than ever, it seems shoppers feel as though they are left with an emotional authenticity void that is now being filled by companies who promote slow cooking and by micro-businesses who create homemade products.
The convenience of self-check-out services that offer food on-demand 24/7, a whole host of online food delivery apps, and direct-to-consumer websites give busy consumers the ability to not ever have to cook at home—making home-cooked or slowly prepared food all the more appealing. Last year Mintel reported a 214% increase in products which mentioned the word “slow” in their product descriptions. A growing number of businesses are offering consumers accustomed to fast-paced dining a slow and more authentic alternative.
F&B businesses efforts to improve customer convenience don’t only benefit consumers. Cashless restaurants are on the rise as dining venues phase out cash payment, offering consumers a convenient and PIN-less way of paying while restaurants benefit from avoiding bank deposits while also introducing higher levels of transparency.
Transparency has become crucial to F&B businesses as brands seek to connect with consumers through layered brand touchpoints.
The convenience of technology has enabled consumers to research before they buy more than ever, thus making transparency even more important to information consumed audiences. Transparency has also become crucial to businesses as brands seek to connect with consumers through layered brand touchpoints and in new ways. Consumers no longer focus solely on the product on offer, but also the ethics and values surrounding both products and companies. Honesty, authenticity and going hyper-local sum up a macro-trend for consumers seeking to live healthier lifestyles and make more ethical shopping decisions.
Karma is among a myriad of mobile apps that bridge technology and convenience to help conscientious consumers shop more ethically. Diners can search for leftover food from a range of restaurants including Hummus Bros for half the usual price, order their selection via the app and pick up their food at the venue. Users benefit from getting a deal while saving food from going to waste.
Consumers’ hunger for convenience has lead to a progressively widening divide between instantaneous tech and slow, home-cooked offerings. Convenience shouldn’t replace quality or authenticity, nor does it need to. Street food is the age-old convenience food—as chefs in search of new flavours and ingredients have discovered time after time in their popularised food-travel shows. Ping Pong Dim Sum and Wagamama have adapted Asian flavours to be palatable to the mass of the UK audience, yet diners crave more—less watered down offerings and diversity in new ethnic cuisine.
The challenge for F&B businesses in years ahead will be to indeed satiate consumers’ quench for convenience, but also look at convenience from a different perspective. Although transparency, ethics and values will probably never outstrip consumers’ demand for convenience, it’s become increasingly clear that they are vital in capturing authenticity starved audiences. Consumers now increasingly expect convenience to go hand-in-hand with health, and for brands to help them lead healthier and more ethical lifestyles.