The Foodservice Forecast

An exploration of the fuzzy, far-off future of foodservice at retail.

By
Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

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The Idea Jar

As we cast our net for insights and ideas from our panel of experts, we brought in a bounty of ideas that serve as great musings for trends and innovations to come. We call it our Idea Jar. Pull one out and see where it takes you.

  • Tropical fruits are making a comeback on menus via new applica­tions. ... Pineapple is just as likely to be found as a grilled layer to a sandwich, in salsas or dessert as it is gracing a piña colada. Look for ribbons of mango in everything from frozen custard to savory sauces for protein.” (Rachel Tracy, Culi­nary Visions Panel)
  • “Over the next five years, consum­ers will look to retailers like Trader Joe’s to inspire and delight them with snacks like portabella jerky, textural wonders such as orbs of fruit gels now mostly found in bubble tea. By 2022, we’ll likely see more encapsulated technology, where delivery systems provide us with customized nutrients (think botanicals rather than synthetic vitamins and minerals) for our beverages and on-the-go snacks. Oh, and packaging at this stage: mostly edible.” (Melissa Abbott, The Hartman Group)
  • Asian concepts (such as Shop­House, pictured above), simple food, healthy food. Tropical flavors such as mango and avocado. Greek-style yogurt.” (Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises, University of Massachusetts- Amherst)
  • Television show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” has encouraged consumers to search out funky, hole-in-the-wall food spots across the country. “I love the food and the service levels. It’s actually an expansion of the know-your-farmer [sentiment] and getting back to commu­nities,” says Nancy Levandowski, foodser­vice director, Iowa State University, Ames.
  • Hummus has exploded in all seg­ments. Whether it is different varieties such as black bean or edamame (pictured above), new flavor profiles are proliferat­ing to pique interest in consumers’ evolv­ing tastes. Hummus is no longer just a dip; operators are using it as a sandwich topper as well.” (Rachel Tracy)
  • “We’re growing a bit weary of braised local dishes plucked from the nearest rooftop. We will definitely lighten up a bit on ingredients with a pedigree, and begin to take ourselves a lot less seri­ously, have fun and continue to break a lot of rules.” (Melissa Abbott)
  • “The fact that Girl Scout Cookies are candy bar flavors, and Taco Bell’s suc­cess with Doritos Locos tacos, shows this mash-up of iconic brands and craveable things is a hit. People love it and they get it; it fits into their sound-bite mentality.” (Aaron Noveshen, The Culinary Edge)
  • “It will be possible to prepare a full menu with just two or three pieces of equipment such as I’ve seen in Europe already: one combi oven, one or two induction burners and maybe a salaman­der for quick searing/browning.” (Karen Malody, Culinary Options)
  • Kitchen equipment has the capa­bility to talk to one another and the operator, “so the refrigeration is talking to the computer in the office. It’s saying everything’s running fine, or my defrost timer is running too long, or it’s time to run preventative maintenance,” says James Camacho of Camacho & Associates.
  • “More emphasis on nutritional retention and integrity of farm-fresh, regional, seasonal ingredients based on the manner in which it is cooked. Vari­ous technologies have been developed whose results, when the food is lab-tested, confirm that not only less waste occurs but also the nutrients are more intact after having gone through the cooking process.”

Beyond the Crystal Ball: Hopes and Fears

It’s easy to get lost in the vortex of guessing what the consumer will want, need and do next. But what about you, the foodservice professional? What keeps you up at night—good or bad? What direction do you hope the industry takes in the future?

While you ponder that, consider our experts’ musings.

What Excites You?

“The perishable-food chain. If done with diligence and discipline, it could be game changing for the nontraditional foodservice channels. With this comes greater food-safety concerns along with the understanding of what it takes to truly be a player.”

— Joseph Chiovera, vice president of foodservice, Alimen­tation Couche-Tard/Circle K Stores, Laval, Quebec

“How consumers are so willing to experiment these days with flavors and global cuisines. The American palate is changing from strictly fat, salt and sugar to developing an appreciation for sour and bitter as well. It’s a great time in our food history. ”

— Melissa Abbott, The Hartman Group

What Concerns You?

“Going too far with healthy. If I go too far, I could lose my client that has been faithful and loyal to me just because I was trying to capture someone else. It concerns me how much I can actually do cutting edge and how much I have to stay reserved.”

— LaGretta Riley, assistant retail man­ager, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.

“That [c-stores] don’t do [foodservice] right. They think they can do it right, but they don’t take all the steps.”

— Jerry Weiner, vice president of food­service, Rutter’s Farm Stores, York, Pa.

What Do You Hope the Future Brings?

“Operators need a voice in the healthy-foods debate. We are cramming things down operators’ throats and saying, ‘You must change, you must do this.’ If they had more voice at the table, I think some things could change, slowly but surely.”

— LaGretta Riley

“I would like to see the foodservice indus­try fully embrace sustainable, healthy and multicultural food practices. That includes smaller portions and nutrition­ally balanced dishes made with fresh ingredients. At the same time, I will always want food to be exciting and fun.”

— Ken Toong, University of Massachu­setts-Amherst

“We will see foodies become more of the norm in that they want to really experience their food. The ‘Portlandia’ chicken episode is not as far-fetched as it may become.”

— Nancy Levandowski, Iowa State University

“I would love to see the food democracy movement really take hold with healthful, affordable and readily available food for everyone.”

— Rachel Tracy, Culinary Visions Panel

“Hospitality and putting the guest first. Empowerment of the staff to do the right thing and building a business around that culture. Great food is one thing, but there’s something about great hospitality that makes all the difference in people’s lives.”

—Aaron Noveshen, The Culinary Edge

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