Foodservice Changes Mean Opportunities for Retail Dietitians
By Phil Lempert, RDBA, CEO
The changes are all about technology, changes in take-out, price increases and a role to play in the new foodservice metaverse.
Marc Lore of Diapers.com, Jet.com and Walmart successes has created a new food delivery service that brings consumers food trucks on demand with a trained chef in the truck making your food right outside your door so that it is served to you, piping hot. IN addition to his own money, he also raised $500 million and it's being piloted in New Jersey right now in four cities. Lore has said that to pull this off idea nationwide, he needs a million workers (not customers). It’s a throwback to the 1950s and 60s where there were neighborhood bread, milk, cakes and other food trucks that went from street to street; and could well be the next evolution for supermarkets that goes beyond having third parties selling and delivering prepared foods to go.
Talking about prepared foods and third-party vendors - Publix, Kroger, ShopRite, Hannaford, Food Lion, Giant, Martin’s, and others are all making moves to get into the takeout business and really start competing with restaurants; and they are doing it with Instacart. Instacart's new Ready Meals Hub has launched. It is a platform that is for ordering prepared meals: grab and go salads, sandwiches, rotisserie chickens, sushi among other prepared foods. Curiously, it’s not part of Instacart’s regular app; it is a two-step process where it looks and feels very different.
For those who have resumed eating out in restaurants and those supermarket grocerants – whether it be inside or outside dining there is a big difference happening on the menu. Not only are your customers seeing higher prices, but the higher food costs and staffing shortages are creating a shorter list of items and often with fewer ingredients and sides. According to Datassential who analyzed over 4,800 menus across the US, in 2021, 60% of restaurants reported reducing their menu size. The most shortages were reported at fine-dining establishments with the number of items declining 23%. The consumer-price index for food away from home, which includes purchases from restaurants, rose 5.8% over the past year, the largest 12-month increase since 1982, according to BLS. They found that restaurants are focused on reducing the amount of appetizer and desserts which begs for the innovation and creativity of retail dietitians to get involved and develop better for you offerings that are tied to ingredient availability.
According to the National Restaurant Association we have seen over 110,000 restaurants close since the beginning of the pandemic – and it is predicted that lots more will follow. There are millions of kitchen workers and waiters who are out of jobs – the lucky ones have been able to switch careers – the unlucky ones have had to deal with irate customers who come to their restaurants ready to fight over prices, missing menu items and yes, even wearing masks if the city has mandated that protocol. Supermarkets need to be recruiting these qualified and experienced workers who are looking for a calmer and more stable environment.
Shoppers are looking for more humane treatment of animals that make its way into our foodservice operations – be it a grocerant or prepared meals in self-serve cases. A survey of 2,000 people commissioned by Compassion in World Farming found that 68% of consumers would welcome animal welfare labels on our foods and beverages. Another survey from the National Secular Society found that 72 percent of shoppers want labels on foods to reveal how animals were slaughtered. Yet another survey “Are they buying it? US Consumers’ Changing Attitudes towards more Humanely Raised Meat, Eggs and Dairy” reports that consumers would also pay a premium price (32% for eggs, 48% for chicken) for products raised under a trustworthy welfare certification.
As your store’s retail dietitian, you should be making your management and culinary teams aware that this is a great opportunity to not only increase sales and profits, but also be satisfying a demand from consumers that are looking for better for you foods in both prepared food sections and on store shelves.
McDonald’s, Sweetgreen, Panera, Bareburger and other restaurants have already started creating their foodservice metaverses. During the “big game” last week, Miller Lite introduced its own metaverse experience and supermarkets won’t be far behind. While in some instances, customers will be able to order real foods to be picked up or delivered through their virtual reality headsets, the bigger opportunity is to use the metaverse as a tool to communicate education. And that’s another opportunity for you to get involved. The metaverse will be glitzy and take a page out of gaming – but the magic will come from edu-tainment. Here’s a look at what we envisioned back in 2007 and see how you can build an even better metaverse shopping experience for your retailer using health & wellness as the foundation.