The National Restaurant Association has released a report entitled ‘Restaurant Industry 2030: Actionable Insights for the Future’, in which it examines how environmentally friendly practices will transform the business.
Sustainability is more than a trend and can be seen as sea-change in how we live, do business and eat. In ten years’ time sustainability practices will have come a long way further than they are today, impacting almost every facet of the restaurant industry. According to the report, these practices “have been increasing over the last decade” and will increase “even faster in the next one as innovative restaurants lead the way in more sustainable operations".
The report makes two central claims about sustainability in the restaurant business. First, that “sustainability isn’t just a buzzword". It’s not a novel way to score virtue points and garner a loyal following, but a genuine passion, driven by chefs and restaurateurs alike, who want to do their part for the planet.
The other is that sustainability will be integrated into every aspect of the restaurant business, from using sustainable energy sources, making kitchens more energy-efficient, optimising front of house design and utilising farm to fork supply chain solutions to minimise food waste. Restaurants will decrease in size as smaller restaurants will find it easier to automate processes and reduce carbon footprint.
The ever-growing data pool on each customer will see guests expecting a seamless digital experience and want their preferences known at each interaction with a restaurant. Offsite meal preparation and cloud kitchens will grow as customers’ loyalty to third-part apps will only increase.
The report claims that menus will have to evolve to “reflect the increasingly health-conscious, ecological mindset of the consumer.” This means that single use packaging could be a thing of the past.
Technology will impact the industry as Artificial Intelligence “with knowledge of cooking techniques, food chemistry, recipes, and alcohol could produce unexpected new culinary and beverage experiences,” the report said.
People are already becoming more fussy in the way they eat and that won’t change with nutrition playing a more important role in menu creation than today. “Advanced genetic knowledge and the rising incidence of lifestyle diseases are likely to create a growing demand for meals that provide specific health benefits to diners”.
The restaurant industry is already struggling with staffing, successful restaurants in the US will need to cognisant of changing demographics and how they will affect the labour force, with the report including some key findings. The number of adults in the labour force 65 and older is expected to reach a record high of 16.1 million by 2028, while the number of teenagers in the labour force is expected to decline to 5.1 million by 2028, its lowest level in 65 years.
Staffing pressures will force operators to automate more routine back-of-house tasks to enhance productivity and efficiency.