The mashup between fast-casual dining and grocery shopping will continue to be a popular play, according to Josh Onishi, CEO and president of Peace Dining Corporation, a fresh sushi purveyor based in Philadelphia.
As the crystal balls start to come out for 2018, Onishi says that quality, speed and choice are the keys to innovation and success in the retail foodservice arena. According to Onishi, Where stores can differentiate themselves from other stand-alone fast-casual chains is their sourcing of ingredients and adroitness at offering healthy items.
He points to three trends driving the future of fast-casual dining in retail foodservice:
- Customer Experience -- “The whole experience matters, from first impressions to ordering to dining. The future of fast casual allows customers to not only see their food being made, but even to go interactive, directing the preparation themselves, which creates a more personalized and meaningful experience,” Onishi says, adding that amenities like free wifi and beverage bars are important differentiators in the experience as well.
- Hyper-innovation of menu items– The nimbleness of grocerants and in-store café operators fits well with consumers’ seemingly insatiable quest for variety. “Although new items must be consistent with the retail and grocerant brands, the innovation pace enhances frequency, loyalty and fun as customers are constantly motivated to try new things and to return and try even newer options,” Onishi says. He cites Peace Dining Corporation’s experimentation with sushi in other formats, like sushi burritos and even sushi donuts.
- Sustainability– Grocerants that share their commitment to sustainability can also capture consumers attention – and share of wallet. “People not only prefer, but actively seek out companies that position themselves as eco-friendly; from vendor selection, operational sustainability, packaging and waste management. The sustainably-friendly retail foodservice section has an opportunity to enhance the supermarket’s brand by creating a positive first impression when the customer enters the store,” he observes.