The pandemic has also had a very noticeable and peculiar side effect of accelerating the changes under way, starting with the digitalisation of businesses. In some sectors, this phenomenon has been particularly evident: just think of the digitalisation of catering, which since the spring 2020 lockdown, has seen a substantial acceleration in pace, significantly promoting the very concept of Food Tech. The paper menu replaced with its digital counterpart – accessible through the QR Code – is the most blatant example of how the health emergency has sped up the digitalisation of the sector, quickly taking it to the next step of catering 4.0.

Food Tech: what is it?

Food Tech is a unique sector that comprises all the applications of digital and innovative technologies in the agro-food supply chain. In Italy, we are therefore talking about Food Tech in relation to the start-ups that are developing new technologies for the production and preservation of food, but also the restaurants that are putting innovative digital tools in place to offer new services to their customers, as well as delivery services. According to the report by DigitalFoodLabs, we were already seeing a sharp increase in European investments in Food Tech before the pandemic: between 2018 and 2019, investments in this sector in fact soared from 900 million euros to 2.4 billion euros.

The digitalisation of restaurants: current trends

One piece of data, in particular, that manages to quickly and effectively demonstrate the leap forward as regards the digitalisation of restaurants has been identified by the We Are Social 2021 Global Digital Report: the data analysis has in fact revealed that ‘Food & Personal Care’ e-commerce represents the segment that recorded the largest positive change, with an increase of 41%. If in 2020, 665 billion dollars were spent on ‘Fashion & Beauty’ e-commerce and 500 billion on ‘Electronics & Physical Media’ online stores, then 413 billion were instead spent on ‘Food & Personal Care’ e-commerce, representing a clear departure from the past. Faced with this significant growth in the digitalisation of the sector, the main trends for the near future seem to centre around brand awareness – especially through social media networks – with ever-increasing attention being afforded to the ‘customer experience’, inside and outside the restaurant.

Software for take-aways, apps for ordering at the table and interactive menus: the key developments

Before 2020, there were not many restaurants contemplating interactive menus or management software for catering, complete with a take-away module. Today, these tools have become fundamental for the recovery of businesses, the final phases of the health emergency and the post-Covid era, starting from the assumption that the approach to the restaurant sector has inevitably changed. This is why – to ensure maximum safety, satisfy customer requests and guarantee the best customer experience – it is essential to be able to count on more user-friendly table-booking apps, as well as intuitive apps for table orders and quick and efficient platforms for the take-away service.

The restaurant experience has now become, in part, digital: restaurants, pizzerias and bars must move accordingly, also and above all focusing on engagement so as to attract and retain a growing number of customers.