Industry expert and all around solid guy Northern Munkee is back – and now he’s turning a beady-foodie eye (…plus a whole load of research) onto technology and what it’s doing for the hospitality businesses. If you buy food and drink, or work with it – here’s a glimpse at a million possible futures for drone deliveries and start up businesses…
In five years’ time robots will be delivering our food
NM: The world we live in has changed. The way we consume the things we consume has changed. We are now a generation on from the ‘MTV Generation’. We want things instantly and we want them at our fingertips.
Tom Goodwin famously wrote:
Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening… (2015)
Almost every part of our daily lives has been enhanced by tech – the food industry hasn’t escaped its clutches, with brands like Deliveroo and Just Eat making leaps forward in the world of takeaways. It’s now possible to track a moped through the streets of London, or a pizza through the oven. We are now more connected with the food supply chain than ever before and I for one think it’s brilliant.
That’s all well and good but what I want to know is: why is this happening? What impact is it having on food start-ups and Joe Public? And what is it going to look like in the medium term?
I took a look at a few movers and shakers to scratch beneath the surface of this slick industry and discover if the days of a grease-soaked newspaper, protecting a yellow polystyrene box containing limp donner meat and soggy chips are over.
This post considers how these advancements benefit the quality of takeaway food, how it supports business growth amongst UK food companies and some of my predictions are for the future.
Quality, Quality, Quality
One of the key trends behind this seismic shift in delivery food is our desire, nay, our demand for better quality food for all occasions. The modern day consumer wants to enjoy high quality food, whether it’s from a Michelin-starred restaurant, cooked in a microwave, ordered at 3am or delivered directly to a place of work.
It’s no longer acceptable to compromise just because your food is travelling to you. Did you know that you can now get a full rotisserie chicken delivered to wherever you want? Chicken and Foxes will even throw in a mix of healthy salad or vegetables just for good measure. How far removed is that from burning the roof of your mouth on a late night cheese pizza from a place that also sells fish and chips?
When I talk about ‘quality’ I don’t just mean the grade of the food and the taste experience, but I also mean the qualities of the food and the health benefits. Health is a huge trend and it’s one that is set to stay…
Healthy lifestylers are also busy lifestylers, so they rarely have time to plan their meals as well as their regimen requires. This is where businesses like Gym Food come in. You can now get a full week of pre-packed meals meeting all your nutrition needs at your fingertips. Even if you’re not a pure gym-junky you can manage your lifestyle and get healthy snacks delivered to your desk by Office Pantry, no need anymore for that packet of Penguins you’ve got stashed in your drawer for the 3pm slump!
We are now more informed than ever and companies like Deliveroo and UberEATS have empowered the consumer to compare, contrast and demand more choice. Ten years ago you wouldn’t have even attempted to order a gluten-free takeaway but now, thanks to companies like Dinngergise, it’s the expectation, as opposed to the exception.
Two Fingers to the Eatstablishment
So we’ve determined where the demand is coming from… but how does this work for new entrants to the marketplace, and why is this relatively new industry of high quality delivered food catching on like a video of dancing kittens?
There are two basic drivers here: cost and technology.
It’s the technology that makes it possible for companies like Zesty Kitchen to produce high quality food at reasonable prices, and in a timely fashion. The new platforms have shaken up the traditional delivery model and reduced late or incorrect orders because the majority of food startisans are employing third party apps to manage the order and payment systems.
This also allows the new businesses to tap into the power of group advertising; there’s no way my local Indian could afford to run a television ad, but if I see an advert for Just Eat they may well get my business. Clever eh?
The other aspect of this equation is cost. So, you like food and you want to start a business serving great food but you don’t have much money. If you open a restaurant you have to pay business rates, utilities, rent, labour, advertising and then all the fantastic ingredients you want to use to create your dishes. A non-starter then?
Well, let’s say now that you’re not fixed on having premises; well that opens a lot of doors. Companies like FoodStars operate a model that supports early business growth and offers professional kitchen space in and around London (Bethnal Green, Bermondsey and Vauxhall, to be exact). This completely breaks down some of the barriers to starting a business and drastically reduces your start-up costs.
OK, now you’re in a position where you can cook your food and you have the technology to manage the ‘painful bit’ (namely finances and order processing) – so what are you waiting for?
What’s the Food Future?
According to our friends over at McKinsey, only 26% of traditional delivery orders are made online – which I find bizarre but they are very clever boffins so I’ll take their word for it!
All that means is that there is a lot of headroom for this rapidly expanding market. Look at UberEATS for example, it’s currently only in 3 cities in the UK – how long before that takes over the UK… like the cars?
The clever bit is most certainly the technology, but the industry is flexing around it – we’ve recently seen big shifts in the status quo with Deliveroo opening a physical restaurant and Morrison’s including a Just Eat concession in one of its supermarkets.
Companies like FoodStars present a great opportunity for new entrants but it’s only a matter of time before shared kitchens become the norm and you won’t actually be able to visit your local takeaway any more. I for one am I excited by the prospects that this changing market presents.
How long will it be before Amazon joins the chase and the skies are filled with drones? In five years’ time robots will be delivering our food!