The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the digitalisation of the foodservice industry, according to the latest foodservice report by Rabobank.
The bank’s RaboResearch arm feels the necessity of investing in digital transformation has only become more evident, and that pushed by the circumstances, operators have incorporated technology at unforeseen speed, predominantly around two lines: minimising human interaction and enabling off-premises sales through delivery and take-out.
Digital customer interaction has become a staple, says the report. For all formats and customer segments, selecting venues, booking a table, and ordering for take-out or delivery online have become standard actions.
Maria Castroviejo, senior analyst – consumer foods at Rabobank said: “Operators that haven’t set up a seamless online presence are substantially reducing their visibility. Others are confronted with compatibility issues among the various interfaces and applications in their business, and the need for a holistic approach is evident.”
Despite major advances in recent times, not all projects are likely to be economically viable, but that hasn’t discouraged operators from investing and securing their position ahead of the herd. Leaving aside startups based on digital-only models, large limited-service groups are setting the trend. Castroviejo added: “There are two key drivers behind their strategic investment plans: best-in-class customer interaction and efficiency enhancement. Artificial intelligence and predictive analysis, connected kitchen devices, and fully automated devices are some of the available tools.”
Looking at the current trading environment, the key element is the gradual reopening of the foodservice industry in a growing number of countries. RaboResearch reports that China, well ahead in the timeline, has made a full recovery in demand, and spending on dining out in the US in May exceeded pre-Covid levels. Europe is likely to take longer to make a full return, the research arm believes, but all signs point to a strong ‘honeymoon effect’, at least during the coming months. The next challenge will come from cost inflation, but rising menu prices seem to be possible for the time being, according to the research division
As revenue prospects improve, investment cases become more attractive. Thus, Rabobank reports a flow of foodservice companies’ IPOs coming to the various stock markets, and that corporate activity among foodservice technology providers is also gaining momentum.
Castroviejo concluded: “Customers feel the need for more comprehensive solutions, and providers see an opportunity to improve their position by enlarging their portfolios.”