Meals on Wheels

Virtual attendees at the 3rd Annual Food on Demand Conference sought guidance on how to manage the cost of using delivery services with their business so severely impacted by COVID-19.

Author: Casey Gale       

Food on Demand

The 3rd Annual Food on Demand Conference, held virtually this year, drew more than 1,700 attendees and 30 exhibitors. (Illustration by Carmen Segovia)

There’s a meme on social media about food delivery being “a combination of my 3 favorite things: 1. Food. 2. Not moving. 3. Avoiding people.” That may have gotten a chuckle pre-pandemic, but food delivery is more of a serious business today — often essential to those in lock-down mode at home and a lifeline to restaurants unable to open their indoor dining areas due to coronavirus restrictions (see No. 3 — avoiding people).

But new service methods and technologies in the food industry were trending long before COVID-19, and that is how the Food on Demand Conference (FODC) was born. The event — put on by Food on Demand, a publisher of newsletters, webinars, and white papers focused on, as its tagline says, “the intersection of food, technology, and mobility” — launched in 2018, one year after the media organization was created by parent company Franchise Times in response to the ever-changing foodservice landscape.

Future of Food

A smorgasbord of people — representatives from major delivery providers like Grubhub, software vendors that work on point-of-sale systems, restaurant operators, robot and drone manufacturers, and more — attend FODC. The number of participants at this year’s virtual event was roughly triple the attendance at the 2019 live event — more than 1,700 attendees and more than 30 exhibitors.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of delivery folks, whether they’re from delivery providers or other service providers … who’ve reached out to us from across the pond saying that they were tuning in as well,” said Tom Kaiser, editor of Food on Demand. “That’s just awesome — something that probably wouldn’t have happened to that level if it was in person.”

Sessions at the third annual conference, held Aug. 10-12, included:

  • Virtual Reality: Making Money With Delivery-Only Kitchens and Virtual Kitchens
  • Designing the Restaurant of the Future
  • Bringing Your Delivery Program In House

This year, virtual attendees looked to Food on Demand for guidance on how to navigate the food industry in a world with COVID-19, which has forced restaurants to struggle with managing the cost of using delivery services with their business so severely impacted by the health crisis.

“That’s a very big part of what Food on Demand talks about — how restaurants can set themselves up to not only survive these new expenses in a very different business landscape,” Kaiser said, “but to ideally do this profitably.”

Casey Gale is associate editor at Convene.

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