The food industry is undergoing some cultural changes. Consumers are beginning to realize their groceries contain unhealthy, chemically-altered ingredients and are increasingly opting for nutritional alternatives. Small markets and restaurants are able to win over new customers by promising wholesome, local items, while fast-food chains are forced to rethink their image.

While this trend occurred, the Internet has proliferated in restaurants across the country. Patrons can use the growing hubs of free WiFi to connect to smart devices and get things done while they eat. Combined, the two movements can give small grocery stores, markets and restaurants the ammunition needed to compete and succeed.

New program provides unique opportunity
Popular Greek yogurt brand Chobani published a press release which introduced a first-of-its-kind program called the Chobani Food Incubator aimed at giving emerging food entrepreneurs an extra boost. For young companies dedicated to providing natural, healthy, tasty food, the Incubator will provide resources, space and training.

The six-month program is based in New York City, and will provide a kitchen, office space, classes and collaboration with food industry professionals.

"Today we're opening our doors to entrepreneurs who share our vision for better food for tomorrow – food that's natural and affordable," Hamdi Ulukaya, Chobani's Founder and CEO, said in the press release. "Making a product the right way is not always easy, but we've proven that the model works. I'm excited to work with entrepreneurs who share our goal and who can benefit from our experience."

The program could be exactly what an emerging company needs to learn how to succeed within the food industry.

WiFi access grows across restaurants
According to Nation's Restaurant News, consumers' demands of free WiFi at cafes and restaurants has grown. Industry data firm Technomic Inc. indicated that 65 percent of customers at fast food establishments expect free wireless Internet access. That number is too high for eateries to ignore.

"Over the years, WiFi has really transitioned from nice to have to a point where operators should believe that it is an expectation of their customers," Darren Tristano of Technomic told Nation's Restaurant News. "It is a no-brainer and because it is such a huge expectation, I don't know how you avoid it."

For smaller diners, jumping on the WiFi trend would eliminate one of the last advantages many corporate chains still hold over their smaller-scale competition.

Hospitality and restaurant industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in food service equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.