Food and drink branding in 2021: 5 trends to watch

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Botin Restaurant in Madrid in Spain is the world’s oldest operating restaurant. Started in 1725 and famous the world over, even Ernest Hemmingway mentioned the restaurant’s signature dish cochinillo asado(roast suckling pig) in his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.

To build a lasting business of that nature, is probably every entrepreneurs dream. While every success story has its own secret ingredient, there are some prevailing global trends that I would advise every budding restaurant owner to think about.

The Consumer is changing and so is the industry:

The consumer in India & globally has changed dramatically. Today our dining out and social habits have changed. Dining out is a social activity and is not restricted around standard notions of lunch or dinner. We go out and eat when we want to. And increasingly we don’t select our favourite places according to cuisine – most new formats blend and mix a variety of cuisines and dishes that would have been unheard of a few years back.

Back to basics:

Whilst there has been a dearth of experimentation in food, cuisines, plating etc – there also has been a fairly ridiculous level of food design for the sake of it. When done without any context or thought- simply for the sake of making the menu look “different” it doesn’t work. What works and will always work is a clear back to basics approach- understand your food, your approach and your consumer and build it around them with great service and hospitality and it will always work.

Multi use, scalable formats:

An important consideration in any restaurant or f&b design is the understanding that we don’t go out just to eat – it’s to work, to conduct meetings, to socialise and so much more. This derives the principle that restaurant design should be multi use, scalable formats that have the ability to change according to the time of the day, and the season. This ensures that in the long run, the format has the potential to remain fresh.

Use Technology effectively:

Technology can be a powerful tool to not just create a more efficient system but also an effective way of connecting and building deep knowledge of your customers- for example: a. Cloud based POS systems that harness AI / learning systems to effectively understand what consumers are ordering and therefore get a deeper understanding of your business; b. Wifi systems enable you to get rich consumer data that can be used to create marketing systems that are completely non traditional – for example building localised area based offers for specific consumer groups c. Smart loyalty systems that are non obtrusive and can create a umbrella of inventive and value beyond just the dine in location.

Good design is invisible:

When we have a great experience – we remember the experience as one cohesive event. When we have a bad experience that’s when we notice that the service is bad or the food was overcooked. Good design is truly invisible and when it works, it makes for a memorable experience. Over design and design without any thought – whether its the interiors or the cutlery or the food – will always have a short shelf life.

Deliver experiences – delivery:

This is an area of enormous opportunity for all f&b formats – regardless of the scale. It allows for the business to reach their consumers homes. Too often a great dish falls flat on its face – literally – when it reaches our homes. The solution – design food around the delivery experience as well. It is here to stay and by ignoring it – you are doing it at your peril. Smarter packaging solutions to specialised delivery menu there are several simple ways in which your business can offer a great experience for your consumers at their home.

Mix Usage by blurring boundaries – retail / events:

The last and final note is something that is a global trend across retail, entertainment and even real estate. As consumers change, spending habits change, so do our impulse purchases. As a physical destination, you have numerous opportunities to engage with your audience. IF you’ve covered all of the 6 above , then extend your brand beyond the traditional boundary of f&B. Retail for instance becomes a natural extension of your brand but can only be successful be deep integration with design and operations and not just by putting up a shelf in the corner to sell produce.

While these seven are in no way an exhaustive guideline, they certainly can be treated as a starting point to think of to make your business ready for the future.

As published on Restaurant India website on October 16 2017