South still the sick man of Italy
Italy is slowly recovering from one of the worst recessionary periods in its history, and the foodservice industry in 2015 showed signs of improvement compared to previous years. Some restaurants upgraded their menus and some consumers were more willing to spend. However, the small signs of recovery were not evident equally across the country, with southern Italian outlets performing less well than their northern counterparts, thus forcing international operators like McDonald's to re-examine their expansion plans in certain regions.
In 2015, foodservice operators in Italy embraced the willingness of average consumers to opt for healthier food. Italian consumers increasingly looked for food and beverages that they considered good for them and for the community, such as locally sourced produce that combines good nutritional values and full traceability from field to fork with the good feeling of supporting to local farmers. An increased awareness of Italian food biodiversity brought consumers to prefer Made in Italy products to imported ones.
Fast food chains head to Italy
During 2015, Milan was the place to be for many brands in the foodservice industry, due to the fact that the Expo brought domestic and international visitors, as well as increased disposable incomes for locals, thanks to jobs being created to support the event. Domino's Pizza opened an outlet in the city, while Kentucky Fried Chicken tested the water in other cities: Turin, Rome, Genoa and Chieti. It has also been announced that Starbucks will launch in Italy in 2016, specifically in Milan, in conjunction with local operators.
Chains slowly gaining share
Independent outlets continue to represent the largest share of foodservice operators in Italy. Despite difficult economic conditions and a slowdown in customer traffic, they continue to account for the majority of outlets in the country, thanks to their focus on unique menus and the dining experience. When new outlets open, however, it is more likely that they will prefer to join an existing franchising group rather than run solo, as this allows less capital exposure, and entrepreneurs can capitalize from the very first minute on the best operating practices shared by the franchisor.
The buzz around online ordering
In light of the increasing dependence on smartphones for planning and decision making, more Italian consumers are looking at online sources to decide where and what to eat. Although still in its early stages, and with services limited to a handful of major cities, Italy has seen significant growth in online ordering operators like Just Eat and Deliveroo, as marketplaces gathering multiple restaurants on the same platform, as well as Quandoo for table reservation, and XMenu and Ordinalo for customized ordering that allows independent restaurants to receive orders online and print them in the kitchen for immediate preparation.