From June 27-29, Food+Tech Connect, in partnership with Applegate, Google, Chipotle, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group and Studio Industries, is bringing restaurant, foodservice, tech and design rabble-rousers together to prototype open-source software and hardware solutions to industry-wide challenges at Hack//Dining NYC.
Today, we’re excited to announce the empowering foodservice consumers and operators challenge. Check out the challenge brief below for a deep dive into the issues. Please share questions, comments and suggestions for relevant datasets in the comments.
Are you a developer, designer or data geek interested in connected devices, nutritional data and behavior change? Snag your spot today.
Interested in having your API featured at Hack//Dining NYC? Email danielle [at] foodtechconnect [dot] com to learn about API partnership opportunities.
Unlike in restaurants, where consumers can vote with their dollars, in institutional foodservice settings, such as schools, entertainment venues and corporate cafeterias, consumers often lack a way to influence what’s on the menu.
On the other side of the table, foodservice operators have varying degrees of understanding of what their customers want. Adding to that, there are so many operational complexities–cost/price sensitivities, sourcing, food prep, etc–of running a foodservice establishment that it can be difficult to fulfill those needs once they’re known. But consumer demand has the power to shift foodservice operators’ purchasing decisions and can make their menus more tailored to their customers preferences.
This challenge is all about finding new, novel ways to capture and communicate consumers’ food needs to foodservice operators. The goal is to make the consumer voice heard in a way that can influence actors across the foodservice supply chain. Not only can this benefit consumers by giving them what they want, it can help foodservice operators sell more food by better understanding what their customers desire and what they are willing to pay for it.
In capturing and communicating consumer demand, there are a number of success characteristics we’ve identified as important. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but should be kept in mind as you develop a solution:
Price/Cost Sensitivity: Food costs are a major determining factor in what does or does not end up on an institutional foodservice menu. A large part of understanding consumer demand is also understanding what price they would be willing to pay for a given food item, especially when it comes to niche items. While understanding what consumers want and their price sensitivity for such items may or may not directly reduce food costs, it can help a foodservice operator understand market demand to better justify those costs.
Applicable to Many Foodservice Situations: Depending on the type of foodservice establishment, building rapport with the consumer is more or less difficult. For example, a corporate cafeteria may have a greater opportunity to understand its customers’ needs (ie. Bon Appetít Management Company uses DropThought to collect feedback) than a stadium where consumers only visit occasionally. How can a solution be devised that captures consumer sentiment in both types of situations?
Ongoing Dialogue: Keep the a conversation going between foodservice operator and customer. Surveys and polling are great ways to get snapshots of what people want, but having an ongoing dialogue that allows for deeper engagement can help a foodservice establishment continually refine what they’re offering to consumers.
Speaking to the Right People: There are many different players involved in running a food service establishment, each with their own type of influence on the operation. The key is to not only capture consumer demand, but to present it to decision makers in a way that allows them to act upon that information.
Actionable Insights: Consumer sentiment can be very fuzzy and its not always clear what to make of it once it’s collected. Here, the key will be to help determine the kinds of actions foodservice operators should take, given a specific type of consumer feedback. Information needs to be presented in a way that’s actionable and impactful.
Impactful Stories: The narrative of “why” consumers want something and how much they are willing to pay is crucial. Without a strong narrative, consumers’ demand has little impact on influencing decisions up the foodservice supply chain.
Unlike other foodservice environments–like an independently owned restaurant, where customers can more easily voice their opinions–institutional foodservice remains a place where the consumer lacks a voice. This challenge aims to raise the overall quality of food available in foodservice establishments of all types.
There are many ways to accomplish this, but giving consumers a stronger voice and translating that voice into actionable insights is a worthwhile objective for consumers and the establishments. By improving this connection, we hope to create an environment with happier customers and more financially successful establishments.
The Consumers: focus on those who dine in an institutional foodservice setting across a number of scenarios, from a sports stadium to a university cafeteria. Examine the differences in context and capabilities that these various foodservice establishments have to offer.
Foodservice Operators: the functions within an institutional foodservice establishment typically consist of operations and purchasing, culinary, marketing, and distribution. All have various impacts and influence over what goes onto a foodservice menu, which should be understood in designing a solution.
Subject Matter Expert: HOMEGROWN Concessions
At the Hackathon, Glenda Yoder and Sonya Dagovitz from HOMEGROWN Concessions will be available to interview to understand the context of how an institutional foodservice establishment operates. Sample questions are below to get you started, but your overall goal is to determine what’s working, what isn’t working, and what could be changed to better empower foodservice establishments to understand their customers’ needs.
About HOMEGROWN CONCESSIONS: HOMEGROWN is a foodservice concessions provider that was born out of a need to serve local, family farm sourced food at the Farm Aid concert series. HOMEGROWN works with large concert and sporting venues to source food from family farms for up to 30,000 people for an all-day concert event. Since 2007, more than 100,000 people have enjoyed food from HOMEGROWN that fit their stringent quality criteria. Food must be sustainably produced by family farmers, identified as local, or organic, or non-GMO, or humanely raised, or utilizing other ecological practices, along with a commitment to a fair price for producers. Homegrown has built up expertise in making high quality food available to customers in foodservice at large scales. We encourage hackers to dive deeper with HOMEGROWN to understand what they’ve done, how they did it and how technology can help scale their approach to a wider range of foodservice contexts.
Sample Questions for HOMEGROWN: