Digital Dining Revolution

Life seems to be getting busier. It’s a common complaint from those around me: “If only I had more time!”

Convenience is a major driving factor in food industry trends, and it isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Busy lifestyles and an ageing population mean that we reach for quick solutions: processed and pre-packaged foods that have a longer shelf life and are easy to use and, especially over the last three years, fast food delivered to our door.

When you’re hungry, tie in ‘time poor’, a wide range of choices and ‘visual promotion’ through social media, and you create the desire for gratification. After all, what could be more enjoyable than having your favourite meal delivered to your door ready to eat?

But convenience food is not without its controversy.

A recent industry forum discussed the pros and cons of food delivery services. Some restaurants reasoned that food delivery was good for cash flow in slower seasons such as winter when diners were less inclined to venture out to eat. It also gives people better choice, such as when kids are asleep, and parents want to enjoy their favourite dish. The product is no different to that served in the restaurant, they argue.

Others disagree. With some food now delivered by bicycle, quality, presentation and heat on delivery is sometimes questionable. There’s the possibility of damaging the restaurant’s brand if presentation of food is not up to their standard.

Others argue that with Uber taking 35% of the price of each meal, restaurateurs must adapt their business models or risk losing profits. There’s also the ethics of low driver earnings to be considered, not to mention the cost of convenience to the diner.

Some restaurateurs say that food is all about experience – the whole package of food presentation, service and feeling special that patrons enjoy when they dine in house.

There are other options: having ‘meals to go’ in the freezer that you have purchased or pre-made yourself, or choosing dining deals (Gold Entertainment Book, First Table or restaurant early dining incentives) to bring down the cost of eating out.

One thing is for certain: convenience dining, booking apps and social media have become a permanent feature of Australia’s culinary landscape. Both restaurants and consumers need to use them wisely, as the digital dining revolution shows no sign of slowing down.

NOTE: This article was published in The Sun on 12 September 2018.

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