E&S Extra

Editorial Director Joe Carbonara provides insights and commentary on the state of the foodservice equipment and supplies marketplace.


Transition Game

If you stop and stare at one long enough, you can probably see a restaurant or foodservice operation evolve before your very eyes.

Communal tables, more televisions, tablet computers everywhere, a disappearing back of the house, growing grab-and-go options and countless other factors represent the hallmarks of today's changing foodservice landscape. Today's consumers expect great food, but what keeps them coming back for more is excellence in every aspect of execution. No detail is too small in their minds.

In other words, experience matters.

Further, thanks to mobile ordering, be it from an app or online or via third-party delivery providers, today's foodservice operators must accommodate consumers who have very different expectations. Some customers still crave an elevated in-store experience, while others want to grab their food and go. And balancing the unique needs of these two customer sets requires careful thought, consideration and collaboration across all aspects of the foodservice enterprise.

These challenges were once the unique domain of commercial restaurants. That's no longer the case, however, as noncommercial operators now function under these same expectations. Take, for example, Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, N.D. To keep up with the needs and demands of its diverse client base, this burgeoning healthcare system operates three restaurants, a micromarket and a physicians' lounge all on one campus. As part of its efforts to embrace transparency, customers see the culinary staff prepare their meals at one of the restaurants, as well as the food for those patients ordering via Sanford's room service platform.

Without question, the pace of change continues to move faster than the industry can grow. That's because consumers' expectations continue to evolve, and a take-share market means operators' appetites to appease their customers remain insatiable.

As a result, the industry continues to see restaurant designs and prototypes evolve and change dramatically. Today's designs have to balance a variety of factors, such as promoting authenticity, speed of service and more — all the while being as environmentally friendly and hip as possible.

These developments continue to unfold during an era of mounting financial pressures for operators from all segments of the foodservice industry. To combat these challenges without compromising foodservice, designers and equipment dealers need to work more closely together than ever before. In doing so they must work collaboratively to manage budgets and accelerated project timelines without compromising design integrity or the overall facility's ability to deliver on the brand promise (Read Eight Ways to Meet in the Middle for more on that thought).

Why all of the change? It's simple, really. What made an organization successful in the past does not guarantee future prosperity. Members of the foodservice industry earn their relevance one day at a time, one transaction at a time. And how do they do that? By remaining customer-centric in their endeavors and working collaboratively with their supply chain partners.