Three Foodservice Education Entrees Dished Up at the 2018 NRA Show

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2018 NRA Show

Three Foodservice Education Entrees Dished Up at the 2018 NRA Show

By Angela Hanson - 06/05/2018
2018 NRA Show

CHICAGO — Along with thousands of product samples and equipment demonstrations aimed at helping retailers create the eateries of tomorrow, the 2018 National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show featured numerous education sessions and discussion panels on how to succeed in the future.

Here are three highlights pertinent to convenience store operations:

The Power of Foodservice at Retail

Mintel's Amanda Topper, associate director of foodservice research, described the shifting U.S. retail landscape and implications for the future of foodservice during a session entitled "The Power of Foodservice at Retail."

While the Mintel research Topper shared focused on food prepared on-site by store employees or a branded partnership at supermarkets and other locations where consumers buy groceries, the competitive overlap with convenience stores makes the insights relevant to c-store operators as well.

In the current market, there continues to be a rise in proprietary restaurants, food bars and coffee bars in the store as consumers diversify their shopping trips, making it more important for retailers to stand out from the competition.

Shoppers primarily want items that are convenient and already prepared. This can include grab-and-go lines, made-to-order meals, and customizable purchases like pizza. Among the most popular foodservice items purchased at retail are fried or rotisserie chicken; sandwiches; coffee drinks; pizza; and salad bar bowls. The top prepared food concepts are sandwich stations and coffee shops. 

One-third of consumers say they are interested in "any restaurant," which is also the same percentage of consumers who say they are not interested in any concept, showing that the demand, while growing, is not universal.

Retailers can take steps to attract more customers who are not specifically loyal to one store, as they are unlikely to change their habits. The most popular purchase drivers are try-before-you-buy samples (40 percent), daily specials (39 percent), and having a place to eat inside the store (20 percent), according to Mintel's research.

If in-store dining is put into place, it shouldn't be an afterthought. Rather than hastily installed near the checkout, it should be designed as a place to enjoy spending time.

While it is unlikely that retail foodservice will replace restaurants, which are generally perceived as being more fun, they can still build positive association.

Video Killed the Radio Star, and It's Killing the Training Binder, Too

In-person and manual-based training methods are still widely in use, but a panel discussion entitled "Video Killed the Radio Star, and It's Killing the Training Binder, Too" explained how the digital age is changing how people learn.

Today, no matter the topic, it is easy to visit YouTube and find instructions on how to do, build or fix something. This comes from the organic growth of people wanting to access something in the moment, according to panelist Lexi Burns of Twin Peaks Restaurants.

Written training can be open to interpretation, even if it is written and edited to be specific, while video training shows foodservice workers doing or not doing specific things.

Video training may be more appealing to millennial employees, who have shown they gravitate toward video that isn't particularly polished.

Galvanizing the Food Industry to Reap the Benefits of Gender Equity

The future of foodservice can also bring equality in the workplace. 

Susan Adzick of McLane Foodservice and Hattie Hill of the Women's Foodservice Forum (WFF) discussed the results of the 2017 Women in the Workplace Study conducted by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org during a session titled "Galvanizing the Food Industry to Reap the Benefits of Gender Equity."

They also explored best practices that can help the foodservice industry achieve the goal of a closed gender-equity gap by 2025. 

Companies such as Brinker International, Yum! Brands, Dine Brands and The Coca-Cola Co. have teamed up with the WFF to lead the way in gender equity in the industry.

Companies that want to advance women have to ensure they have the right culture in place. First, they should study themselves to determine the benchmark of where they are, and identify best practices and policies.

It is key to consider representation and promotion within the company, as well as policy and procedures, according to the speakers. Companies should also foster workplace engagement and have a robust succession planning process.

It's important that any culture change comes from above.

"The CEO of the organization has to step up and say 'I'll do it, I'm committed to it,'" said Adzick.

Efforts should also be made to work with women ahead of promotions to help them prepare to step up when the time comes, as women tend to apply for the next level when they have 80 percent of the desired experience, compared to men who tend to apply when they have just half the desired experience.

"Part of the gap is a confidence gap," Adzick said. "You think if you work hard and get results, it will come to you — it is not coming to you. You need to step up and ask for it."

The 2018 National Restaurant Association Show took place May 19-22 at Chicago's McCormick Place.