Food and Beverage, side notes of a rEvolution

In brief
There are many useful words to describe the madness that has characterised food and beverage in recent years. rEvolution is the best summary.

“Revolution”, of course “Catering” and “evolution”, “transformation” “hybridisation”, “innovation”, “digitalisation”; this assonance is ensured by many words that are equally useful to describe the madness that has characterised food and beverage in recent years. Until we chose rEvolution, as a summary of everything.

We talked about rEvolution, at least in its primary aspects, a few days ago in Milan, at a public meeting attended by a small crowd of catering and retail operators (there were speeches by Luca D’Alba of Autogrill, Marco Airoldi of Rossopomodoro and Alessandro Sampaoli of Panino Giusto). If rEvolution seems like a strong concept, the numbers we presented at the beginning of the discussion (taken from authoritative sources: among others, the annual EWSE report), are more than sufficient to justify it.

Traditional food expenditure in large-scale distribution decreased by 11 billion euros in 2017. The growth rate of out-of-home food spending, on the other hand, rose by 4 billion. In total, we are talking about an out-of-home market worth just under 80 billion euros today. More specifically, online catering grew by 66% in 2016; it is supported by consumers who purchase via smartphones, now more than one in four Italians. The vast majority of them would like more technology in the restaurant, and 60% prefer the self-service mode, which also involves an average receipt worth more than 20%.

There is a radical change in uses and consumption, which also entails problems that are not easily solved (sustainability, for example, like the precariousness situation of the 8,000 Italian drivers involved in home delivery). But, above all, this radical change affects strategic choices, not only in catering, but also in the GDO (the hybridisation of the supermarkets is an important aspect of this) and in sectors non-related to Distribution too. Raise your hand, for example, if you ever thought that one day a large bank would think of opening a “Puro Gusto” cafe on its premises.

Although we may be famous worldwide for our cuisine, when we look at catering as a business the reality is definitely less positive. Low productivity and terse delay in the digitising process are evidence of this. Catering is one of the sectors with the highest turnover of closures/openings, and the added value per hour worked has been in constant decline from 2009 to 2016; a slight improvement was appreciated just last year.

In the given situation, and having to deal with a demanding and unpredictable user, technology is obviously a competition weapon, but increasingly often, a survival weapon too. It is impossible to postpone the choice of advanced systems in restaurants: for self ordering and interactive kiosks, for home delivery and for payments.

The game is played there, even before it is played on the plate.