Smart, personal, sustainable – trends that will shape catering in 2020

For a caterer to stay relevant, they’ll have to do more than tweak the menu and spruce up the specials board; they’ll need to observe their customers carefully and keep a keen eye on the competition to stand any chance of staying ahead.

New challenges mean new opportunities in catering, and 2020 is set to be a year of change for the industry. Those that work in catering will be used to the fast pace of service and hospitality, where keeping pace with evolving consumer trends is key to survival. For a caterer to stay relevant in 2020, they’ll have to do more than tweak the menu and spruce up the specials board; they’ll need to observe their customers carefully and keep a keen eye on the competition to stand any chance of staying ahead. 

Even a quick glance at the catering market today paints a wildly different picture from five years ago. We now live in a world where click-to-order food can be delivered hot and fresh within minutes. Where loyalty apps keep customers coming back for their favourite lunch, saving time and money with each visit. Customers are also becoming increasingly conscious about how their food is sourced and the carbon footprint their breakfast leaves behind. If you’re running a restaurant and your customers can’t book a table online, you risk being left in the dust.

Technology is transforming how people dine, and it’s our job at Omnico to help our partners not only meet these new expectations, but exceed them. We believe caterers should be thinking beyond menus and opening times, to the technology they adopt and the kinds of unique service they can provide. Here’s what we expect to happen in the industry over the course of the next year…

Fast food will no longer be the reserve of takeaways

We’ve been seeing this trend emerge for a number of years, particularly among cafes, delis and restaurants that offer affordable lunch deals or quick dinners. The concept of fast food used to refer to quick, cheap meals that could be assembled rather than cooked with any kind of care. This conveyor belt notion of fast food has gone. In 2020, fast food will help set smaller high street eateries ahead of the competition. Self-checkout systems will allow people to take their food away quicker; pre-ordering apps on smartphones will eliminate the need to queue, and self-service kiosks will give control – and time – back to the customer. 

This service element is already expected by many consumers, and the smart technology needed to achieve it is more available than ever before, making 2020 the perfect time to upgrade. 

Allergens and sustainability will be high on the agenda

Allergens are not a choice, but consumers with allergies have often been side-lined when dining out. Over two million people in the UK live with a diagnosed food allergy, and it’s up to brands to be more informative and offer clarity about the recipes they use and how they source their ingredients. 

The same can be said for sustainability which, in light of the climate crisis, is at the front of public consciousness. Consumers now look for brands that clearly align with their own values and provide information – and even leadership – around issues like sustainability. Around 88% of consumers say they want to deal with brands that help them make a positive difference to the world. Whether they are vegans or simply want to eat sustainably-sourced fish, caterers need to feed that curiosity and supply that knowledge. 

From sustainability issues to concerns about allergens, the best way to bridge the knowledge gap and demonstrate leadership to customers is through apps, kiosk terminals and other technologies, which brings us onto our next trend… 

Customers will expect an individual service

When we shop online, we get a tailored experience that usually makes it easier to find what we’re looking for. The more we shop, the more information is gathered about our likes and dislikes, and the better the recommendations become. In 2020, the same might be said of some caterers. 

Consumers already have apps that help locate the dining experience they want, but caterers themselves can now create apps that tailor the dining experience itself for customers. In-app payments will become more common, and customers will be able to pre-order from a selection of items that cater to their dietary requirements and taste preferences. Ordering lunch will eventually become more like the one-click-purchase, tailored online shopping experience consumers are used to. 

Dining out is becoming easier and more streamlined for consumers. Great service and attention to detail is as important as it’s ever been, but thanks to technology caterers are now able to offer this alongside increased efficiency and choice, delighting customers in the process.

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