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2016 Trends: Did we get it right?

At the start of the year, R&CA published three key trends that would change the dining scene in Australia throughout 2016. These trends included:

  1. More people will continue to eat out or get take-away;
  2. Back to Basics; and
  3. Is your business sustainable? From farm-to-fork then to social media.

This past calendar year saw major changes in the dining scene. The industry saw mega-giant companies going bust, game-changing mergers and business purchases, and the growing trend of organic and healthy food continued. Technology aimed at simplifying the customer experience, and social media and food hashtags brought small businesses into the limelight. Legislative changes for businesses like Uber and AirBnb have begun to shape the share economy and impact the way the tourism industry operates.

But do these trends actually impact your business? Let’s review the key trends R&CA forecasted in February and see where they’ve ended up.

Forecast 1: More people will continue to eat out or get take-away

With a third of Australia’s population slugging out over 40 hours per week in the office, there is not enough time to buy, prepare and produce a decent cooked meal at home. As the hours at the office increase more and more people will turn to restaurants to provide their food. Get the technology to stay on top: invest in an online-booking system (such as DimmiEntertainment Book, and H&L Australia) and register with Deliveroo, UberEats, Menulog and Zomato to provide a take-away, pick up or delivery option. Do not let consumers be turned away because you don’t offer options. The right system will allow faster service, increase your perceived value with customers, and you gain access to the 85% of Australian’s who have a smartphone.

2016 saw the delivery space boom. Menulog bought Eat Now; Deliveroo services imploded in major capitals across the country and UberEats launched in Australia with their spin on how delivery should work for the upper-end of the market. Other players hovering in the scene include Delivery Hero (who purchased Foodora), Zomato Delivery and YouFoodz. Other task or delivery sites such as AirTasker and ASAP also allow customers to request delivery drivers to pick-up food orders and deliver to their requested location.

These businesses have started, grown or adapted to the changing digital landscape. Long gone are the days when consumers would take a walk to pick up their take-away orders, now with technology such as smart-phones, tablets and apps used on these devices, ordering food is as simple as clicking a few buttons. Dominos Pizza allows registered customers to simply send a pizza emoji via text to have their favourite orders delivered. Customers now have an expectation that all their food desires will be available in a fast, easy and convenient way; and if you do not offer this option, the consumer will just look to the next restaurant that does.

Customer expectations are at an all-time high. Offering delivery services or being listed with a delivery service just won’t make the cut. Most, if not all, food delivery companies offer consumers the option to rate and provide a review of their experience. Food must be fresh, hot (or cold) when delivered and timely; if your business doesn’t pass consumer expectations, a business will likely receive feedback or potentially a negative review which can impact other consumers willing to try your restaurant or café. A closed-loop review system is utilized with online booking platforms such as Dimmi, Book it Now (Entertainment Publications), and BookBook (H&L Australia) – reviews can only be submitted by patrons who have booked/ordered through these platforms and have actually followed through with a dining experience. This is one step further than sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, UrbanSpoon and Zomato where anyone can ‘claim’ they’ve dined in the business.

Forecast 2: Back to Basics

Consumers want to know their food is fresh, healthy, unprocessed and simple. Industry gurus have predicted consumer food trends will include; fermented food, cooking BBQ-style with charcoal, savoury desserts and naked wines. Stay ahead of the race and review your menu; could you change your avocado dishes to smashed cucumber, your kale to seaweed and start serving your steaks blue? Can you amend any of your meals to ever changing requests? While reviewing your menu, you should consider cost-controls and portion controls.  Doing so may reduce your spend on produce. To review this year’s food trends from Tourism Australia click here and the Good Food Guide click here. To find out more on cost-controlling click here.

Back-to-basics trends held true throughout 2016. Foraging for natural ingredients and the introduction of native cuisines (heavily based on Aboriginal culture) from around Australia were a big hit for celebrity chef’s in Australia. Other changes in trends included more seaweed and a growth in Nordic and Arabic influenced cuisines and meals. As Australians (and the rest of the world) continue to focus on healthier lifestyles including diets, cleaner, fresher and more natural dishes are expected. Australians want to have dishes served full of natural grown food (meats included) that offer plenty of vitamins and required nutrients.

On the flip side of dining and in true Australian spirit – drinking dynamics have also changed. Boutique beers from local brewers is a growing trend that first hit the dining scene a few years ago. Brewery dining, with a beer garden feel is sprouting up across the country with the likes of 4 Pines in Sydney’s northern suburb of Manly; Moon Dog Brewery in Abbotsford, Melbourne; Lady Burra Brewhouse in Adelaide; Feral Brewery Company in Perth; The Precinct in Darwin; Newstead Brewing Co in Brisbane; BentSpoke Brewing Co in Canberra; and the Hobart Brewing Co in Hobart. Small Bars and Wine Bars are also making a claim on the market.

Forecast 3: Is your business sustainable? From farm-to-fork then to social media.

As vegetarian alternatives become main-stream meals, consumers want single-portion meals, that are process-free and sustainable. From farm-to-fork, consumers want their food to be real and to be healthy and presentable on social media. To stay ahead of the game, know where your food is coming from and build an online presence.

Social media continues to grow in Australia with over 41 million active social media accounts and 92% of consumers referring to online reviews before deciding to make a purchasing decision. There has been over 389 million photos tagged with the top 10 most popular food hashtags. The key to being successful on social media is providing content, and having a feel good story like farm-to-fork is a great way to pull at the heartstrings of the general public. But having consistent content that gets your customers involved and engaged is what businesses really need. Being accessible to your target-market and potential guests is also important, so be wary of what age groups use what social media platforms; it is even more important to know what content is acceptable on what platofrm. For example; brightly coloured photos of well-presented dishes on Instagram that are geo-located are a great place to start.



Smart Company: The rise of restaurant delivery services – should your business get onboard

ABC News: Craft Beer and Australia’s changing alcohol consumption habits

Eat Drink Play: Top Food Trends 2016

News.com.au: Food delivery apps are booming in Australia, saving sinner with offers to haute cuisine or fast food

R&CA: Keeping ahead of the game in 2016

Tourism Australia: Australia’s food and wine trends 2016

Good Food: What are 2016’s food trends