THINK TANK: Foodservice interviews

Foodservice is undergoing a genuine revolution, with a levelling of trends worldwide, the digitalisation of experience, customisation, and the hybridisation of concepts and places. We review the transformations at work, shaking up the  world’s major markets, with Anne-Claire Paré, Director of Cabinet Bento.






"The Chinese foodservice market is truly a reflection of Chinese society: still highly traditional while at the same time turned towards the new technologies. Consumers therefore make great use of social networks and blogs to swap photos and videos of what they eat, and of  their culinary experiences. They also resort increasingly to mobile apps for making their payments! In the big urban centres, foodservice is now being given highly fashionable trimmings, expressed for example by way of "Wahong", high-quality, and above all ultra-trendy dishes at accessible prices, to justify queueing for hours to get a taste of them! The place, the concept, the cuisine are perfectly scripted to propose to millennials - and their parents - truly unique experiences. We can see that in most of the country’s cities a ‘fooding’ culture has gradually taken root. This is conveyed by the homogenisation of taste and of the foodservice trends, with a popularisation of Western cuisine. The big international chains, such as McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks have made inroads, going upmarket with new concepts, or testing new premium products. This makes China one of the biggest current foodservice labs. What next? The emergence of the Asiatic chains on the Western markets? Some people are calling this the ‘yogaization’
of the world!"


"The United Arab Emirates market is also undergoing profound upheavals, with several new trends breathing new life into foodservice. To understand this latest revolution, we first need to recall that this country has a large community of expats with very high incomes, who are keen on premium food and gastronomic experiences. This explains the success of the food truck, a concept that comes from the United States and which was launched three years ago in the Emirates. The principle is simple: food trucks deliver quality meals, ready-to-eat, and travel from place to place according to timetables and geolocation info which are updated live on the web. SALT, a pioneering company in this niche, already has 160,000 followers on Instagram and 600 employees. Its competitors are already trying to get in on the action, as testified by the recent creation of "Last Exit", a Food Trucks park, by Meraas. This truly is a foodservice phenomenon! Another significant trend involves confectionery, with once again an expanding offer and intensified competition between stakeholders. Despite several international franchises doing well, such as Angelina, Magnolia Bakery, or Patchi, a local offering - with gourmet bakeries proposing tastings onsite - is also beginning to emerge. Maybe the Emirates will decide to play it more local?"


"Like the USA, the Canadian market is strongly marked by health issues. Obesity crisis, food scandals: questions of health and food have become real challenges for North American society. Consequently, the foodservice players have had to completely review their approach, in the space of just a few years, to win over an ever more demanding clientele. In this time we have seen the emergence of new brands focusing on the ‘less means better’ trend. Among the fast casual chains that are enjoying success, some have taken up position on the fine casual trend by spotlighting emblematic and audacious chefs and proposing far more sophisticated experiences than you get in traditional foodservice, and where everything is finely-honed, from decor to ambience and including, needless to say, the menu. Other fast casual chains occupy the health niche. I’m thinking in particular of the "Salad" and "Poké Bars", which are springing up all over in the big urban centres, and which propose fresh, fast, value-for-money, traditional food with health benefits. Globally, the North American market is historically very competitive and very hard to penetrate. It is a particularly demanding sector where approximation is taboo. Setting up in Canada (or in the United States) requires both lots of investment and the implementation of a clear, innovative project based on local values and a culinary tradition that is conducive to telling a story. Then, to succeed, you need constantly to take stock and innovate, on account of the demanding environment. America is a crucible of innovation for the foodservice sector."


"France, clearly, is not exempt from the current revolution. You no longer go to the restaurant in the same way you did 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. Even if France remains very attached to the gastronomic traditions, some new trends are beginning to emerge. I’m thinking for example of the ‘Food Halls’, these large spaces hosting food shops, either permanent or pop-up, each proposing a culinary speciality, with gourmet cuisine to be tasted on the spot or to-go. While the concept has sprung up most everywhere in the West, it has really taken off in France, with the creation of Lafayette Gourmet in Paris (with an Eataly announced for the near future), Les Halles de Bacalan in Bordeaux, and the venerable Halles Bocuse in Lyon. Another strong trend in France is the emergence of hybrid concepts. During off-peak hours in the day, restaurants are transformed into cafes and co-working spaces, ready to receive a new clientele that they would not have been able to corner otherwise. Supermarket-cafeterias are also appearing on the scene. Franprix is developing in this way a new store format, offering twice as much space to the snacking area, and Picard is starting to open restaurants. Yet the France of foodservice, as befits its gastronomic tradition, is today moving a great deal to the rhythm of the fine casual, thanks to young chefs, many of whom have a high media profile, who are bringing a fresh and inventive touch to their cuisine, in locations conceived to offer a convivial and unforgettable experience. I believe that we shall continue to see the flourishing of new concepts in France, each more original than the last, thanks to this hybridisation trend!"


In Indonesia, the foodservice market is still very traditional. Yet, the sector has taken several giant steps towards, due to the strategic importance of international tourism. High-end hotels and restaurants that serve local and international cuisine, fast food outlets, cafés and bars, bakeries, and low-end small restaurants, street-side restaurants known as warungs… the network is more and more diversified, serving noodles, Japanese food, pizza, fried chicken, etc. What’s new in the country? In Jarkarta, food trucks serve food on the street! And
throughout Java and Bali, 24 hour convenience stores now provide consumers with hot or cold beverages, burgers, hotdogs, pastries and bread...