Once upon a time, if you wanted to consume food prepared outside of the home you had to go straight to the source, which tended to be a large monolithic structure that required lots of fire power to execute most any kind of menu. Oh, how times have changed.

Consumers no longer have to seek out quality food options. Instead, quality food providers now seek out today’s time-strapped consumers. And this trend will remain relevant for the long haul, for a variety of reasons.

First, consumers’ dining patterns continue to change. When I grew up, we ate dinner as a family at the same time every night Monday through Friday. This happened without exception. Speaking from experience, today’s family life is far more complicated. Simply put: consumers of all ages are on the go.

Second, it’s a case of simple economics. As real estate costs in highly populated areas continue to increase, operators still desire to be close to the action. So a number of independent operators, and chains for that matter, continue to pursue mobile-friendly concepts. As a result, many operators find foodservice facilities with smaller footprints to be desirable. It allows them to set up shop in places they might not otherwise be able to and it can lessen their initial investment. Further, they can draw on a number of support services, such as commissaries, to make their small businesses appear as sophisticated as their larger competitors.

Larger, brick and mortar operations have no choice but to take notice. They can’t abandon their existing network of locations, so they continue to turn to technology to help increase speed of service. Take Panera Bread, for example. Customers can use the fast-casual chain’s app to place an order and upon entering the store, the consumer walks over to a shelf where their food is waiting for them.

Or how about Starbucks? The Seattle-based coffee giant is said to be testing an app through which customers can place their orders in advance. When a customer gets within 500 feet of their preferred Starbucks, an alert triggers the barista to start making the drink. The beverage is ready when the customer hits the door — without having to wait in line.

None of this would be possible were it not for the continued evolution of foodservice equipment. Smaller, more flexible pieces of equipment that are not only easy to use but also consume less gas, water or electricity rule the day in these spaces. For more information on the equipment requirements for food on the move, check out Tom O’Brien’s article on page 24. If you missed it you can still listen to FE&S’ free webcast on the subject by visiting www.fesmag.com.

Undoubtedly there will be some speed bumps along the way, but all signs point toward food remaining on the move at an even faster pace.