The foodservice landscape is undergoing a seismic shift as it adapts to post-pandemic realities and evolving consumer behaviors. Having worked with some of the top Fortune 500 global food companies and leading startups as business strategy, marketing, and growth catalysts, we’ve identified 10 critical changes that are reshaping our industry. These insights are not just predictions; they’re already unfolding across various operations. Here, we delve into 10 transformative trends and offer strategic guidance for foodservice professionals looking to grow their business to new heights in 2024.

Simplification: Phase 2

Gone are the days of complex menus and operations. The new mantra is simplification, an initiative extending beyond the menu to encompass the entire business model. Streamlining supplier relationships, kitchen designs, and innovation processes is proving crucial for agility and resilience. It’s about focusing on what operators do best, and looking at every area of the business for ways to streamline the operation and deliver dishes and experiences that diners can recount in their memory and feed their soul.

Operational Execution & Consistency

Consistency is the new currency in foodservice. Establishing rigorous operational standards, from recipe adherence to service protocols, is key to delivering the quality customers expect every single time. And it’s more important than ever as inconsistencies have led to decreased traffic—the biggest challenge operators are facing today.


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What this means going forward is that Operations now has a critical role in the menu development process, and they are being brought in earlier in the process to vet ideas before they get too far downstream. The ultimate learning is this—consistency is only achieved by having the right systems in place, and by creating an environment for your staff where it’s an enjoyable place to be. Get that right, and consistency will improve, and employee and guest loyalty will follow.

Smarter Kitchen Equipment

Smart technology is invading commercial kitchens, bringing precision and efficiency. Investment in AI-driven appliances that can be controlled remotely, and sensors that provide real-time data is not a luxury but a necessity for future-proofing operations. In many ways, equipment advancement has mitigated the reliance on skilled labor, making it easier to operate the restaurant and easier to train new employees. By embracing automation, we’re seeing improved consistency, reduction of labor, and faster and easier prep, meaning the restaurant of the future is more efficient while requiring less people to operate it.

Ease of Order, Pay & Pickup

The digital revolution has made convenience king. Implementing user-friendly online ordering systems, contactless payments, and streamlined pick-up services are now baseline requirements, not differentiators. As we advance, ordering and pick-up should be VIP smooth. It’s about rolling out the red carpet digitally and making every tap and swipe feel like a personal butler service. Lag here and watch your customers swipe left on your operation.

Focus on Driving Traffic

Reviving customer counts post-pandemic requires a multi-faceted approach. Leveraging technology for improved menu execution, enhancing team engagement, and boosting online presence are among the top tactics for attracting diners. It’s about bringing your brand experience through every possible customer transaction, whether that be purely digital, or in-person dining. For many, this means doubling down on loyalty programs, improving app functionality, and focusing on team engagement to make your establishment the place to be, not just the place to eat. The goal is to not just to attract a crowd, but to keep them captivated.

Consumer’s Definition of Value

Value perception has evolved beyond price and quality. Consumers now equate value with experience, encompassing ease of ordering, payment options, and reliable delivery services. It’s not just about competitive pricing, but about exceeding expectations with every interaction. Provide an experience that feels personal, from the greeting at the door to the farewell, and cater your approach to your customers unique needs based on the visit occasion. When you infuse value into the ambiance, service, and every customer touch point, you deliver a seamless journey from menu to mouth.

Cohesive Staff Engagement

The link between staff engagement and customer satisfaction has never been clearer. Investing in team building, training, and creating a culture of belonging is essential for delivering exceptional service. Your team is the heartbeat of your establishment. Foster an environment that buzzes with motivation and pride. Invest in their growth, listen to their feedback, and cultivate a workplace that’s as nurturing as it is driven. Happy staff radiate warmth that guests can feel, turning a meal into a memory, and with each positive memory created, you deepen your emotional connection with the customer and increase brand loyalty.

Demand for Customization

Customization isn’t just a trend; it’s a demand. In fact, a recent Salesforce report noted 52 percent of consumers expect all offers to be personalized—so “Made Your Way” is here to stay. The increase in digital orders has accelerated the ease and availability of customization. What operators have found is that enabling customers to personalize their orders easily through mobile apps has had a direct path to loyalty, albeit with its operational and financial challenges. From extra avocado to gluten-free, the power to personalize is a potent one and vital to catering to each guest’s unique needs. Operators should equip their teams with the tools and training to craft tailored experiences that resonate with individual preferences. In the tapestry of taste, ensure every patron finds their thread.

Upscaling of Takeout Packaging

With more consumers dining at home, the expectation for quality packaging has soared. Packaging that maintains food integrity and temperature while being environmentally conscious is the new standard. It’s not just about holding food; it’s about upholding your brand’s promise. In a world where unboxing videos are a genre, it’s time to make your packaging worthy of the spotlight.

Evolution of Supplier Support

The future of foodservice is collaborative. Both operators and suppliers need to work toward leveraging the institutional knowledge, capabilities, and ideas they have and co-create a vision to address the needs of the business and foster true partnership to accelerate results. Operators need suppliers who are partners—those who offer predictive analytics, innovation support, and help in navigating market complexities. Those looking to succeed in 2024 need to forge robust partnerships with those who are as committed to innovation and excellence as you are. These alliances should be strategic and symbiotic, leveraging collective strengths to deliver superior products and services. Operators, treat your suppliers as insiders, and together you will navigate the market’s ebbs and flows with finesse.

These 10 changes are more than just shifts in operational tactics; they represent a broader transformation within the foodservice industry. Businesses that embrace these changes, prioritizing flexibility and innovation, will be poised for success in an ever-evolving market. As we continue to navigate these changes, strategic adaptation will be the hallmark of industry leaders. These aren’t just fleeting fancies; they’re the foundational stones of tomorrow’s culinary landscape. Marry these principles with your passion and prepare to lead the charge in an industry that never sleeps but always dreams.

Tim Hand and Kim Letizia are with Kinetic12 Consulting, a Chicago-based Foodservice and general management consulting firm. The firm works with leading Foodservice suppliers, operators and organizations on customized strategic initiatives as well as guiding multiple collaborative forums and best practice projects. They also engage as keynote speakers at industry conferences and supplier sales meetings. Their previous leadership roles in restaurant chain operations and at Foodservice manufacturers provide a balanced industry perspective.

Contact us to talk or learn more about how we can help your organization understand the Restaurant of the Future and how Emerging & Growth Chains will define the future of Foodservice.

Consumer Trends, Marketing & Promotions, Outside Insights, Restaurant Operations, Story