Industry experts predict how the hospitality industry will change in the next 12 months

Melissa Pepers 

At the recent the QSR Media Conference Awards held in Sydney, a food trends panel discussion – which included a panel of expert industry figures Venessa Barnes from Australian Pork, Melissa Pepers from Bonbo, John McFadden from Select Fresh Providores and Gary Powell of Sandwich Chefs, and hosted by Mimmo Lubrano of Sandhurst Fine Foods – made preditictions for the next 12 months of the foodservice industry. 

Chef John McFadden from Select Fresh Providores observed that the dining scene has changed, and it’s how we accommodate those changes that is of utmost importance. “Look at a 50-year-old person and how they were 20 years ago – this demographic is driving choice”. McFadden said the niche markets he felt had the most growth are plant-based produce and meals.

 “The shortage of certain products needs to be a consideration,” said Barnes. “It’s an interesting space when it comes to protein as we head into a global shortage. We need to consider this and plan accordingly.”

Another premiumisation experience on the rise is cafeterias being branded as food halls, and increasing their image as a quality venue. Brands are teaming up and sharing space to drive a quality customer experience.   

Authenticity was also a hot topic and discussed on every panel throughout the day. Consumers know when they see a fake, and this can be detrimental to a brand as it creates a level of distrust. 

The panelists also touched on provided authentic experiences, and produce traceability. To be authentic, you must be able to know where your food is grown, how it is grown and how it is treated along the journey to the plate. If you know this you can then tell the story. People will pay a premium when they have trust and belief in the product.  

An easy way to bring this into business is to have a top level campaign and execute the campaign at a local level. This is extremely effective, drives personal interaction such as social media and if it works, it may be a game changer.

“Wastage is our responsibility. We take the stress away from the end user so the importance of traceability comes into it here again”, said McFadden.

On the other end, IT and AI is playing a major part in serving the customers appetite for convenience. This is evident by the amount of technology being introduced including pre order, pick up apps, kiosk ordering, online ordering and delivery. 

The panel made their predictions for the next 12 months, which includes a stronger focus on sustainability, plant-based packaging and origin of ingredients. 

“It’s going to get more exciting. Food is a great space to be working in at the moment, and where it’s going in the future is endless. There is nothing stopping advancement and innovation”, said Powell.

“We’re going to see a stronger sustainability focus with packaging and waste. Frozen items and guilt-free treats such as avocado and hummus will become popular. And ocean inspired flavours including seaweed flavour snacks and treats will grow in demand”, said McFadden.

Pepers sees packaging as a strong trend in the next 12 months. “We are running out of plant-based material overseas and in Denmark, grocery stores are doing what we call ‘clean labelling’ with suppliers adding their carbon footprint to labels”.

The common thread throughout the panel discussion at the QSR Conference was that in order to stay alive in this industry you must continually meet consumer demands. Be prepared to invest in understanding what it is your consumer wants, to make sure you give yourself the best chance of successful survival.