In foodservice, value isn’t just about combo meals and dollar menus. It’s about delivering valuable meals and experiences, sharing social values with consumers, and advancing a new set of values in the industry.
These were the topics top of mind for two of our speakers at Innovations 2022: Datassential CEO Jack Li and Momofuku founder David Chang. As the pandemic, labor shortages, inflation, and social movements continue to impact restaurants, it’s time for foodservice professionals to reassess what’s important for consumers and the industry.
“Deal promotions are absolutely not a substitute for innovation.”
96 percent of consumers are feeling the pain of inflation, and they plan to eat out less if prices continue to climb. Offering discounts may seem like the best course of action to keep restaurant traffic from falling off, but that, according to Jack Li, would be a big mistake.
Since the early days of the pandemic, Li has been reminding operators of the impact value menus had after the recession. People flocked to restaurants offering huge deals, but they didn’t return when prices went back to their pre-recession rates. These brands became synonymous with a cheap meal, so consumers only ate there when they could get a discount.
According to Li, the value of eating out isn’t the cost; it’s tasting unique flavors and having great experiences. Restaurants that focus on innovation will attract diners willing to pay a little more for a delicious, special meal away from home.
“Toughness is saying, ‘I need help.’”
Mental health and substance abuse have long been issues for chefs and foodservice workers. The pandemic brought these issues to a boiling point. Restaurants are finally beginning to look into mental health programs and counseling, but the industry has a long way to go.
David Chang, who has opened up about his own mental health, credits the testosterone-fueled culinary culture for the industry’s prevalence of substance abuse and mental health issues. This environment rewards macho attitudes and harmful behavior over vulnerability. Chang advocates for a shift in the industry’s values through open conversations among foodservice workers and chefs.
“You eat what you are.”
When choosing a restaurant, consumers are no longer just thinking about what’s close to work or where they can find the best tacos. Increasingly, they want to eat at restaurants that reflect their values. This is especially true for Gen Z.
Li predicts that climate change will be the issue that diners will particularly look to restaurants to take a stand on. Datassential found that 65 percent of consumers agree that changing eating habits could mitigate climate change. He showed examples of chains that are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and develop more sustainable practices.
“Food just wants to be delicious.”
Flavor & The Menu’s Editor-in-Chief Cathy Nash Holley posed some provocative questions about culture and authenticity to Chang, particularly about double standards in the culinary landscape: French cuisine is fine dining; Japanese food is “ethnic.” An Asian dish with European elements is “fusion”; a European dish with Asian elements is … well, a European dish with Asian elements.
Chang called for a “zeitgeist shift about how we think about food.” It’s important to question why one culture’s cuisine would be valued over another’s. Ultimately, consumers want something that tastes good, and flavor knows no borders.
Your Sourcing Solution
Jack Li and David Chang gave Innovations attendees a lot to think about. As you tackle these complex issues and more, Dot will make it easy to source products. Simplifying your operations is how we add value to your business.