This year's Food and Beverage Executive Boot Camp hosted by Mazars, a global accounting and consulting firm, was jam packed with industry experts. This was Mazars' fourth installment of the event after it gained massive popularity during their Food and Beverage Forums in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The audience was packed with buyers and sellers from every corner of the food and beverage industry.
Amid all the insight that was disseminated from over 20 panelists, one core idea remained consistent; Millennials and tech are the driving force behind the food and beverage market. Millennials dictate demand to buyers, who turn around and start placing orders to their various suppliers, which means every link on the supply chain is affected by the buying trends of Millennials.
The Millennial impact
It should come as a surprise to no one that today's most prevalent audience in the food and beverage space is non other than the Millennials, or those who reached young adulthood after the turn of the century. You may recognize them by their food-spending dollars, however. When it comes to meal times, Millennials are spending 48% of their time eating out, and this number is expected to increase to 52% by the year 2020. Perhaps hand in hand with this statistic, Forbes found that Millennials are also spending 44% of food dollars on eating out.
Is this the beginning of the end for meal prep Sundays and home cooked meals? No, but it does suggest that in the coming years we'll only see these numbers increase as Millennials search every corner of their city for their new favorite Korean Barbecue joint.
The concept of online communications and restaurant marketing were also hammered home last week at Mazars 2017. Millennials are the most informed generation in the history of the restaurant industry. So much information is available on-the-go that Millennials can make purchasing decisions at the drop of a hat and a click of a button. This makes for an increase in volatile buying behavior. Competitive presence online has opened up the floodgates for your restaurant to be lined up and measured against every hole in the wall and chain restaurant in town.
If restaurant owners ignore the demand for online presence and pour efforts into growing the old fashioned way, you're likely to lose out on a considerable chunk of your audience because your restaurant won't even show up as an option. For this reason, it is prudent to invest in establishing your online presence and putting yourself on the only map Millennials are looking at.
BlueCart's Lauren Grisanti joins fellow industry experts as a panelist at the 2017 Mazars Bootcamp. Photo by Paul Lang.
How to get discovered
Website, social media, and reviews. These 3 tools will be your greatest weapon for filling empty seats at your tables.
Building your website: your business website will often be the last thing potential customers see before they make a decision. A clear, simple, and easy to navigate website is the key for getting a concise message across to your customers. That message should be unique to you, and should convey your mission and passion for your craft. It's also a destination spot for your branding, which should be coordinated on your social channels as well.
Engaging on social media: remember, anonymity is your enemy. Think of social media as a garden for your brand. Attentiveness and persistent effort will eventually give way to a self-sustaining channel for everything from fun new menu items to sales and promotions. This is your chance to interact and engage with your customers while spreading content about your business, something that restaurants and suppliers that were established a little under 2 decades ago weren't able to take advantage of.
Reviews: the good, the bad, and the disgruntled: Yelp has become a titan of influence over the last decade. Getting your business on Yelp is Online Presence 101, a necessary step for putting your business in front of Millennials. Opening the door for reviews is a fantastic way to turn your everyday customers into loyal brand ambassadors, and ultimately sales reps for your small business. And remember, if you're afraid of what might be said about your business in a review, then you probably have some work to do internally.
Tech is here to stay
If there were any doubts before, the experts at Mazars 2017 made it exceedingly clear; tech is here to stay. Closing your eyes and conducting business with paper and a pencil simply isn't sustainable, and the sooner you adopt tech solutions into your restaurants the sooner you can start realizing a significant jump in ROI.
This goes for both buyers and suppliers in the hospitality space. Right now, as you're reading this, there is a tech solution that exists for every corner of your front and back of house. From procurement to inventory and accounting to CRM, the solution is there. It's up to you to do your due diligence to find the right tool for your business. The post 2010 market has brought us a seemingly infinite amount of startups aimed at helping operators in the food and beverage space, creating a lot of noise that makes your perfect solution often hard to discover.
Business management solutions, like BlueCart, are ushering in new and sustainable ways to manage operations, budgeting, inventory, procurement, and CRM all from one destination. Rather than adopt 12 platforms to provide a solution for each aspect of your business, BlueCart consolidated multi-level features that serve restaurants, suppliers, distributors, and wholesalers onto a single platform. This is the kind of transformative technology that held the spotlight at Mazars 2017, and the sooner buyers and suppliers adopt these solutions, the quicker they can get out ahead of the pack and accelerate growth.