Popping up in F&B: virtual restaurants that rely on digital customers
One of the most important changes happening in the food and beverage industry has to do with the new habits and interests of customers. This change is that the demand for food delivered at home is growing tremendously. Due to new developments in digital technologies, restaurants are able to sell their dishes online that are delivered to home addresses. Nowadays, people just have to walk around Madrid (or other capital cities) at lunchtime or dinner to observe that a significant percentage of the vehicles that circulate are motorcycles and cars of food delivery companies. Delivery drivers are an innovative type of waiter of the new generation. The Next Tourism Generation Alliance also focuses on how to optimize the implementation of digital tools in the hospitality sector. This blog, written by NTG key partner Alicante University focuses on the developments of digital tools in the hospitality industry in Spain, based on the NTG Interviews.
Threats and opportunities of virtual restaurants
However, traditional restaurants are not fully prepared for this change in consumer demand as their services were not created for home delivery. Furthermore, traditional restaurants face competition as an alternative business model has developed. These are the so-called ‘dark kitchens’ – centralized kitchens that only relate to the customer through home delivery. In other words, these new digital or virtual restaurants have no physical restaurant and service.
This new business model also presents opportunities for the hospitality industry. For example, virtual restaurants help solve the problems of limited capacity of some restaurants and cover gaps in demand for certain types of cuisine not provided by traditional restaurants. ‘Dark kitchens’ or ‘cook rooms’ can also improve customer service times and have a wider and more varied offer. These ‘cook rooms’ are therefore a threat to conventional restaurants because they can cause a loss of customers. In addition, these kitchens require less investment, so this will encourage the entry of new competitors in the future in the face of the boom in home delivery.
Connecting the company with the customer based on data
In this context, the giant technology companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Alibaba have realized that food is a key sector they can influence and establish collaborations. These companies are going to be big competitors and great connectors because they have customer data. Google does not care about offering you a pair of glasses, a trip or a hamburger. The company does not generate the reservation system or orders. What Google does is connect the company with the customer based on the extensive data they have.
Finding the balance in sustainability for virtual restaurants
This virtual restaurant trend may negatively affect the environment due to the large amount of plastics used in packaging, transportation etc. A balance must be achieved in the future. If virtual restaurants want to differentiate and adapt themselves to the habits and values of consumers, they must offer ecological packaging that respects the environment.
Virtual restaurants are an example of how innovation and digital skills are integrated into the food and beverage sector. More attention needs to be paid to sustainability skills.
By NTG key partner Alicante University
About the interviewee
This blog is based on one of the Spanish NTG interviews with the CEO of a Spanish firm that has several food and beverage businesses. He manages a consulting firm specialized in social networking, technology and digitalization for the hospitality, gastronomy and tourism sectors. He has a digital newspaper to help understand the process of the digital transformation of the restaurant industry and how innovation and new technologies represent the great revolution of the sector and are changing the model of relationship with customers.