In 2022, you aren’t just what you eat. You’re also where and how and why and when and with whom you do so. It’s a whole new integrated experience, as we learned from Stage 2 of our Consumers Unmasked research project.
To enrich the study’s palate of insights, and help restaurateurs better understand their diners and employees, we convened three experts—Buck Sleeper, Head of Retail Experience Consulting in EPAM Continuum’s North American Digital Engagement Practice; Barbara Castiglia, Executive Editor of Modern Restaurant Management magazine and host of The Main Course podcast; and Nicole France, Product Marketing Evangelist at Contentful—to consider report’s findings.
The conversation provides a full menu of insights.
For starters, freshness matters to diners, in a holistic sense. “Freshness is not only in the ingredient itself but it's in the entire meal that you're having,” says Sleeper.
And ghost kitchens are here to stay—and are the drivers of new food ventures, according to Castiglia. “For a little bit of investment, you could have some new restauranteurs out there.”
“You don't even need a taco truck,” says France.
The group chewed over the idea of data—both the importance of big data for restaurants, and for small data as well. “Sometimes you really don't know what customers want unless you have a conversation,” says France.
France also talked about making data relevant and legible for employees: “It's all about interpreting that data into something meaningful, and honestly, that's a hell of a lot easier to share than big data sets.”
Sleeper notes that a quarter of Consumers Unmasked’s US respondents are watching food and video tutorials. Castiglia replies that, for restauranteurs, “Your digital footprint is very, very important now. So you have to examine which of these channels make the most sense for your brand and spend the time to put together an effort to engage with your guests.”
But the truth is, those guests might be difficult to reach. France says that many young people have are completely comfortable with delivery apps and online ordering but also have “this strange but very deeply held fear of actually interacting with people. So whether that's picking food up or eating in a restaurant, I think there's going to have to be something that adapts to that trend.”
Host: Alison Kotin
Engineer: Kyp Pilalas
Producer: Ken Gordon