Top Chef Estrellas and Simply Delicioso Chef and Host Ingrid Hoffmann On The Future of The Restaurant Industry

This article is part of Raydiant’s Future of The Restaurant Industry series which interviews top experts on their perspective of technology and trends that are shaping the industry.

The following is an interview we had with Ingrid Hoffmann, Author, Chef and Host of Top Chef Estrellas and Simply Delicioso.

Outside of COVID, what have been the most dramatic changes you've seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?

IH: Organic, local, wild, vegan, and social media/Instagram are the most dramatic changes that come to mind,  at least were before COVID. Consumers have become foodies and influencers. Everybody obsessively documents and photographs their food, heck you even see seniors doing so. To millennials, what and how they eat matters like never before in prior generations. Purposeful and conscious eating has become a thing, organic has become a relatively ordinary term, consumers have grown more focused on what and how they eat and where their food comes from hence the use of wild and local making their mark on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves.

What are the top trends you see shaping the future of the restaurant industry in the next 3-5 years? 

IH: COVID has changed all this. While the path ahead looks challenging to say the least, for the restaurant and food industry in general, the real bulk of the damage is to the independent operators that will not recover which is estimated at one in five. During the pandemic, new habits have been formed, cooking at home or ordering in will stay and stick with us for sure.  Some businesses fared better than others, for example, pizza restaurants, food delivery services, and grocery stores. The businesses that were set up for delivery prior to the pandemic were obviously better prepared than those that had to adapt in the middle of a crisis. I do believe pivoting is key. Moving forward, accommodating for deliveries, and doing it right, will be a common trend amongst restaurants from fast food to high end. Also, menu offerings will have to incorporate value options for main courses to entice people, then they can upsell with side items and desserts to round out a ticket.

Another common trend I see is the adaptation/reinvention of interiors and exteriors for both, safe indoor dining and the streamlining of flow for pick/up and delivery. This impacts the interior of restaurants but also the street curbside situation. I also think that new restaurant build-outs will focus a lot on the access to outdoor space. All of this will create patron ease as well as expansion of the business.  

What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the restaurant industry in the next 3-5 years?

IH: Technology that improves streamlining efficiency and productivity both in restaurant and food service via modernization and industrial engineering technique. Other sectors have already been applying these technologies and the food service is playing catch up with unit economic models that are the most margin-sensitive.

What's the future of restaurants?

IH: If all things continue as they stand today the predictions for recovery are a minimum of 3 years, let’s see who can survive staying afloat, at least one in five restaurants won’t be able to do so. Restaurants need to push government for legislation/bills that will cover some sort of either tax or like social security pay in program for pandemic disaster help to owners and workers, most of small businesses did not get PPP money and insurance companies are not covering since it is not flood or fire. There are serious issues that need to be addressed and activated now.