Lessons in consumption

Mike Day explores recent changes in foodservice consumption and how technology can help support operators tackle these changes, and influence customer behaviour.

The new ‘food savvy’ generation are progressively demanding and knowledge and companies must act now to match their habits. 

Indi Cater has been thinking a great deal about food and beverage consumption recently. In March we hosted a fascinating workshop entitled ‘The Changing Habits of Food Consumption’; and more recently we were in the audience for a magnificent lecture delivered by Professor Charles Spence entitled ‘Gastrophysics: The Science of Dining from Restaurant Music to Sonic Crisps’. Both events, one focused on eating trends, the other on what influences what we eat, were outstanding and informative – with lots of ideas and actions to take away and translate into useful practical actions for our software clients.

The workshop raised a significant number of new challenges – and opportunities – for those looking to run a successful and profitable foodservice business. One of the overriding messages taken away from the event was the challenge for chefs in creating menus that meet ever changing dietary demands such as dairy, sugar and gluten free; and with the added pressure of providing menus that include healthy eating options (although, ironically, it seems that these are not always selected by the customer from the menu selection!). The workshop also highlighted the need for foodservice providers to demonstrate their commitment within other areas such as food provenance, authenticity, nutrition and sustainability, thereby consistently demonstrating to the customer how they work within these increasingly important areas. 

Simply put, the workshop highlighted that foodservice providers are feeding a new ‘food savvy’ generation who are progressively demanding and knowledgeable, bringing about a continual shift in customer eating habits which puts new pressures on foodservice operators.

In his Gastrophysics lecture, Professor Spence looked at consumption from a different perspective, focusing on how food on the plate can be served in different ways to influence a customer’s buying behaviour and enjoyment of a dish. Spence approaches the subject of consumption from a psychological, neuroscience and design perspective: his findings contradict much of the folklore and culinary lessons that chefs might have been taught throughout their careers. For example, research has showed that serving food to vulnerable hospital patients on high colour-contrast plates improves their meal consumption; customers would prefer the harmonious and balanced presentation of a dish on the plate rather than the recent trend towards asymmetrical plating with food positioned on the side; customers are not driven by the number of elements that make up a dish, caring far more about how much food is offered. His work is driving the manner in which chefs like Heston Blumenthal serve their food, successfully influencing customers in their consumption behaviour.

IndiCater have looked at the various ways that, specifically, Menu and Recipe  Management software can support the increasing and changing demands placed on food operators; and how it can capitalise on the behavioural findings of experts such as Professor Spence.

For example:

  • Identify and track the provenance of dish items
  • Identify nutritional and allergen information; track waste
  • Define dish weights, measures and visual presentation styles
  • Communicate consistent construction of recipes

Menu and Recipe Management software offers just one technical solution: but what is clear is that operators will need to engage with tools that help them to keep pace with their customers, as well as help them to influence behaviour. Those that don’t will get left behind.