FoodService Equipment and Supplies, 2020 Vision: Industry Leaders Look Ahead

From FoodService Equipment & Supplies

From James Walker, senior vice president of Nathan’s Famous, a 252-unit quick-serve chain

Quick Take: Perhaps more than other segments, technology continues to change

the way quick-serve restaurants operate. But the customer experience remains paramount.

What’s your outlook for the industry in 2020?

I believe the industry is going to see continued difficulties in driving incremental traffic. I think you’ll see increasing demand by consumers for quality, customization and convenience, and a continued push toward things like plant-based proteins and vegan items. You will continue to see brands who innovate and embrace data and technology being rewarded.

What’s your biggest concern or worry for the next year? What excites you the most?

My concern is very simple. It’s the item that’s really keeping me up at night, and that’s labor. The difficulties in providing a truly guest-focused workforce that’s going to take care of our guests is my single biggest concern. It’s what I wrestle with. The technology to make the guest experience better is certainly improving every year. But we’re in a position now where getting that fantastic employee is more and more difficult, and I don’t see it getting any easier.

What excites me most is the increasing pace of innovation within the industry [with] new products and new technology, both back of house as well as consumer-facing.

Do you see the types of equipment you currently use changing in the near future

A lot of the industry today and a lot of our contemporary brands are looking at equipment to try to displace labor or to help reduce hours. I look to the equipment providers and designers not to help me displace labor but to make my current workforce more efficient.

Complete this thought: In order to be successful in the coming year, our organization will need to …

Embrace five things: change and the pace of change, technology, data (and what a powerful tool it can be to answer consumer demands and needs), their guests, and lastly, their employees. Your brand promise is brought to the guest through your employees, so any brand that doesn’t embrace its workforce is ultimately designed to fail.

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