Food and Beverage and the Digital World

New and emerging technology has dominated the news for its disruptive capabilities in many of the world’s industries for the past few years. From agriculture to the automotive industry to food and beverage, automation technology, artificial intelligence, personalisation and social media has altered the landscape of how we manage our businesses. With the digital world connecting all of us, we look at some of the emerging trends in the food and beverage sector.

Embracing a cashless system

With a huge variety of different payment options available these days and new options continually emerging, consumers are carrying cash less often. Between the cashless trend and the risks associated with keeping cash in-store, more and more businesses are choosing to go cashless.

Earlier this year, in an Australian first, 7-Eleven Australia launched a completely cashless and card-less concept convenience store in Melbourne’s inner suburb of Richmond. Catering to the idea that ‘nobody likes to wait’ the store’s format eliminates queues and allows customers to shop and complete their transactions through an app available on their smartphone. Instead of processing transactions, staff members can focus on greeting and assisting customers.

Domino’s Pizza has also followed suit announcing it would be trialling the ‘tap and take’ only payment model at five Australia stores, in a bid to provide a faster and more convenient experience for its customers. The company’s trial stores will accept all forms of payment except cash.

So, what are some of the pros of going cashless? There is a lower risk of theft and fraud, both internally and externally. Offering a variety of cashless payments will open your business to more customers. Transactions will be faster, and staff can focus on customer service instead of only processing payments. A completely cashless store will be safer for staff.

Of course, there are also cons to going cashless, some consumers will still prefer to pay with cash, so if you were to go completely cashless you might lose their business. Any problems with technology may also mean customers don’t have access to their money or digital wallet. The elderly and those without access to technology may have difficulty paying or accessing their funds.

Payment platforms

As a growing number of consumers turn towards digital and flexible methods of payment to purchase the goods they love, more businesses are getting on board with payment platforms like Zip, Afterpay and Apple Pay to remain relevant, competitive and profitable. By partnering with payment platforms, businesses can offer their customers a new way to pay either instore or online without the need for cash or cards.

Payment platforms are in the business of disrupting credit card payments and aim to be everywhere a consumer would consider paying for items on plastic, whether that’s paying for lunch, buying an outfit or advertising to sell your car. Well known food and beverage franchises Grill’d and Schnitz have recently signed onto Zip allowing their customers to choose how they would like to pay for their meals.

Mobile payment services and mobile wallets like Apple Pay are now widely available and provide secure, cash-free and effortless payments. In developing and developed countries that are using cash less often, mobile devices are becoming the most common tools for payments.

Adoption of cryptocurrency

A cryptocurrency is an alternative payment to cash, credit cards, and any other payment methods. The technology built behind the currency allows you to send your payment directly to another person or business without going through a third party like a bank. The most talked-about cryptocurrency is, of course, Bitcoin but there are several other popular cryptocurrencies in the market. Will this trend catch on in Australia?

Australian fast-food chain, Origin Kebabs has been trialling the use of cryptocurrency payments at four of its Queensland stores for several months, allowing customers to pay for meals using bitcoin and other digital currencies. Independent Grocers of Australia (IGA), have recently also started to offer customers the opportunity to pay for groceries and other items in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Both companies are aiming to serve the evolving needs of customers and are at an innovative position in the Australian market, so watch this space!

Food delivery services

It was only a few years ago that home-delivery was limited to pizza and Chinese, but now as technology continues to evolve and connect us all, the concept of home-delivery has completely changed. Thanks to smartphone applications, such as Uber Eats, Menulog, Deliveroo, customers can have the restaurant experience in the comfort of their lounge room. From McDonald’s to Hog’s families can order food from almost any restaurant at the tap of a button on their smartphone.

While convenience and variety offered by online food delivery services is the greatest appeal for consumers, let’s hope that the dining out experience, meant to be shared with family and friends isn’t lost completely.

The age of the foodie

We celebrate what we eat and how we eat it like never before. The term foodie describes not only those who eat at the most exclusive restaurants but those who carefully craft and arrange photos of their burger for Instagram. As the foodie culture has exploded so too has the need for businesses to adapt to this trend.

With the age of the foodie, there comes more of an emphasis on food quality and presentation. Earlier this year, Domino’s Pizza set out to drastically improve product quality and consistency throughout all their stores across Australia and New Zealand by launching a world-first technology called DOM Pizza checker.

This technology was introduced to tackle one of the company’s most common customer complaints that my pizza doesn’t look right! DOM Pizza Checker has addressed this complaint by ensuring that only the highest quality pizzas leave the restaurant, even in busy periods, eliminating inconsistency in product quality. The technology has now used artificial intelligence and machine learning to successfully scan more than 13 million pizzas across Australia and New Zealand; boosting product quality scores by more than 15 per cent (as rated by customers) since its launch.

Free-from movement

The free-from movement is one of the fastest-growing trends in Australia. Foods with health, lifestyle and ethical attributes such as gluten-free, no added hormones, free-range, plant-based and vegan have become more mainstream. The emerging trend is not driven solely by allergies or dietary intolerances, but by those who are wanting to make healthier lifestyle choices. It is becoming vital for businesses to offer customers more vegan, plant-based and vegetarian options. Mad Mex and Domino’s restaurants both now offer plant-based alternatives on their menu’s including chicken and meat substitutes and vegan cheese. Domino’s decision to add vegan cheese followed a survey on their Facebook page late last year to investigate demand for the product across Australia; they received an overwhelming response from the public.

In an age where consumers can access information at their fingertips about their health and nutrition, the free-from trend is one to watch very closely.

Social media

Social media has changed the world of marketing, and consumers are empowered more now than ever before. Your potential customers can do their research before they decide to do business with you or decide not to.

For many consumers, an online review is as equally important as a recommendation from a friend or family member. Your potential customers see first-hand reviews from people they know personally on their social media accounts. Social media has just become another avenue for word-of-mouth reviews.

Consumers expect quality food but also quality service. Business owners must acknowledge that every person walking into their business has a mobile phone with several ways to review their place of business. Consumers of today are highly engaged with technology when deciding on a place to dine out and can readily see what is on the menu, reviews of the service, food and atmosphere and provide feedback for other customers.

You must have a unique, thought out social media strategy for each social media platform that you are active. You can’t apply the same strategy from print advertising to digital, and the same is true for social media platforms. Ensure you use high-quality images, a video where possible and remember to interact with your customers online.

Where to now?

Emerging technology and trends can be both exciting and intimidating, so it’s crucial to be open to new information, inventive approaches, and progressive technology. The way we manage our business is changing at a rapid pace, so you need to be receptive to new technology and keep an eye on the latest news and emerging trends. Regularly compare and benchmark yourself against competitors and industry leaders to stay on top of current innovations, to ensure you’re not left behind!