What is the future of the restaurant industry? The answer will be driven by customers’ appetite for delivery, sustainability and increasingly experience-focused dining. That’s according to Michael Schaefer, the head of food and beverage research at Euromonitor International, who offered the predictions in a speech on the final day of the National Restaurant Association Show at McCormick Place. Delivery is changing the restaurant industry much like the drive-thru did by forcing it to serve people who increasingly wanted to buy food without stepping out of their cars, Schaefer said. The analyst believes more restaurant concepts in the coming years will be designed specifically for delivery, automation and mobile ordering. The global food delivery market was worth $114 billion last year, and Euromonitor expects it to grow by 8.5 percent a year through 2021. Two international restaurant concepts highlight these trends: Gyoza Lab in Japan, and Foodiebag in Sweden. Gyoza Lab, he said, is a fully automated quick-service restaurant in which a robot makes fried dumplings and delivers them to guests. Foodiebag provides meal kit delivery from Stockholm sit-down restaurants. Customers order prepackaged ingredients to make restaurant recipes at home. The ways one can eat out and experience food are also expected to grow, Shaefer said, as more retailers look to add food offerings to boost traffic. Take Ikea, which already offers food in its stores but last fall opened a pop-up cooking class/restaurant hybrid in London that put customers alongside chefs to create a menu of simple Scandinavian dishes. Or Dungelmann, a butcher in the Netherlands, which created a hybrid quick-service spot that combines a deli counter with a restaurant that serves wine and beer. Many former retail spaces in the U.S. already are being transformed into food businesses in the United States, most notably in Chicago through the explosion of food halls like Latinicity and Revival. Sustainability, Schaefer said, will continue to have a significant impact on the restaurant industry in the coming years as well, as more customers underscore the importance of “clean” and ethical eating. That includes a huge influx in demand for plant-based foods, but also an emphasis on methods that help the environment and make consumers feel better about their food choices, like “no waste” restaurants. Overseas examples of these include Jano’s, a vegan food kiosk in Finland, or Chicks by Chicks in Denmark, an organic rotisserie chicken restaurant, which uses so-called a “beak to tail” method by serving everything from poultry organs to stock. – Source: The Chicago Tribune.
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