February 3, 2016

Guest blog post: Setting the stage for digital innovation in the food industry

Hannu Rahnasto

Vice President, Commercial, Fazer Food Services

Fazer Food Services will be joining forces with Tieto to hold a two-day hackathon on the campus of Aalto University. Here's why.

Fazer Food Services has been in the contract catering business for a long time. We run around 1,200 restaurants in the Nordic region, our annual revenue in Finland alone is roughly €250 million, and we've been developing recipes and delivering high quality food services for over four decades.

However, we've realised that our industry - like many others - is changing. 

Firstly, the lines between contract catering and the rest of the food services market are blurring. We still supply food to schools, universities and workplaces, but our customers are beginning to see our restaurants as just one of their possible options for lunch. A wide range of other eateries are fighting for their attention, too, and introducing competitive new services like delivery and round-the-clock opening hours.

Secondly, the way we think about food is changing. As consumers, we care more about what we eat than ever - it's central to our health and fitness, and can also be an important part of our identity. At Fazer Food Services, we've noticed that even the students in the schools we serve want to be treated like discerning customers - they care about the quality and nutritional value of their food, and expect a high level of service from their catering.

All in all, we've got a lot on our plate. In order for our restaurants to stand out from the crowd, we need to respond to these trends and make sure we're living up to our customers' changing expectations. We need to move from being a production-oriented business to being a service-oriented one.

Where does digital come in?

In order to transform in this way, and to stay competitive and innovative in the future, we need to look at developing digital services and experiences, too.

We've already seen a few examples of digital disruption in the food industry. Social media has changed the way we talk about food and drink, and online delivery services are changing the way we buy and enjoy food. At Fazer Food Services, we see a lot of opportunities in the digital space to improve our dialogue with our customers, solve practical issues within our restaurants, and even create new revenue streams.

However, digital services aren't our core competency. Some of the best ideas for innovative digital services might come from outside of our business and perhaps even outside of our industry, from people with different backgrounds and different thoughts on how our restaurants can meet their needs.

Introducing CXHack Fazer

For this reason, we'll be joining forces with Tieto to hold a two-day hackathon on the campus of Aalto University this week. The objective for participating teams is simple - to design simple and convenient digital services that support and add value to the experience of visiting our campus restaurant.

We can't wait to see the results. It´s also very interesting to see what kind of new ideas there might be popping by mixing ideas with other industries – for example using a customer's health and fitness data to recommend them a suitable nutritional balance. But the most important thing is that participants bring their own ideas to the table and challenge also the current ways of thinking within our business.

At Fazer Food Services, our digital journey is only just beginning. Who knows where our next big breakthrough could come from?

Learn more about CXHack Fazer

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