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Opinion: Marius Zürcher on looking back and looking ahead

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Marius Zürcher looks back to the hospitality industry trends he predicted one year ago to see what he got right, and also looks ahead to key 2022 trends

In December 2020, I wrote a column for Foodservice Consultant about what I, at the time, believed to be the hospitality industry trends for 2021. In February 2021, together with Frank Wagner FCSI, I gave a seminar for FCSI EAME in which we discussed the content of that column as well as more trends. On 30 November 2021 Frank and I will once again tackle the subject in an online seminar as part of the FCSI EAME Digital Autumn Summit (an audio recording will be available at a later date).

Because of this, I have decided to use this month’s column to both look back at the trends I predicted late last year to see how things turned out, and to look ahead.

Delivery and at-home restaurant experiences

Last year, I wrote that restaurants that started to deliver food during the lockdowns will continue to do so once lockdowns are no longer an issue, as it provides an extra revenue stream and because customers have gotten used to it. I furthermore highlighted that food delivery does not have to mean Domino’s-style drop-offs (for the record: I love Domino’s) but can also come in the form of at-home restaurant experiences.

As I write this, the Netherlands – the country in which I reside – is bracing for another lockdown. Other countries, such as Austria, have already pulled the trigger. It therefore appears that, for now, offering delivery will remain a necessity for many restaurants, rather than just an addition. Nevertheless, my point still stands: widespread food delivery is here to stay, pandemic or not.

Automation

I wrote that the trend towards automation will continue and accelerate, both because it can play a part in solving the staff shortage problem and because the pandemic will leave many customers weary of extended human interaction and many restaurants concerned about high payroll costs. Since then, the staff shortage problem has reached new heights. So have infection rates in some regions. My point therefore still stands.

Experimentation

I wrote that the financial strain the pandemic puts on the industry will lead to lot of empty, cheap-ish space for restaurants, which will encourage would-be restaurateurs to not only open their own restaurants, but maybe even try something different. This might have been wishful thinking, but then again, I have personally seen this happen in the retail space. I’m not giving up hope.

Healthy and ecologically responsible food

Last year’s column wasn’t the first time I said this – and this one won’t be the last – but restaurants can no longer afford to hide from the reality that they too contribute to man-made climate change and a variety of ongoing health crises. Pivoting towards more healthy and responsible food – for example by drastically reducing the amount of meat they serve – has become unavoidable for the vast majority of restaurants and non-negotiable for the vast majority of customers.

Events

I did not address this in last year’s column, but during the seminar in February, I pointed out that the end of pandemic will lead to a boom in private events such as weddings, anniversaries and sweet sixteen parties. Given the state of the pandemic, this remains yet to be seen in many regions.

Although I do still believe that there will be a boom of some sort, I now also believe – based on observations I and other consultants I spoke to have made – that the pandemic led people to scale down their events, and that that has become a habit that might just stick. Expect therefore a boom of smaller, more intimate events than the industry is used to.

Hope

When writing last year’s column, many of us were hoping and predicting that things would be back to normal by now. Sadly, in many places, they aren’t. Although some would say that I should know better than to make such predictions by now, I believe that booster shots and medication really will lead us out of this mess this in 2022. Until then, stay safe, stay brave, keep ordering food from your favorite restaurants, and keep reading Foodservice Consultant.

Marius Zürcher

 

About the author:

The co-owner & founder of start-up 1520 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Marius Zürcher was a participant at FCSI’s ‘Millennials’ focused roundtable at INTERGASTRA 2018.