If you want to know what’s in your future, you don’t need a crystal ball: according to popular restaurant industry publications, 2018 will largely deliver intensified 2017 restaurant industry trends. Upscale fast food is rapidly gaining in popularity, along with new labor, food, beverage, and technology trends.
Here are 8 restaurant trends 2018 will bring to the table.
Consumers are following food writer Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.” (Well, the last bit not so much.) Regardless, expect to see more vegetables as centerpiece main courses in the coming year.
Shake Shack’s Danny Meyer is famously bullish on fine casual, or upscale fast food as it’s otherwise known. Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group colleague Josh Goldin, co-founder of Alliance Consumer Growth, says, “It’s telling consumers you can have farm-fresh ingredients by chefs who worked in Michelin-star environments, but in a casual setting that won’t break the bank.”
High-end Booze-Free Drinks and Boozy Dessert Drinks
One way to boost check averages is to serve more fresh, exotic juices, house-made sodas, and other booze-free drinks. Another way is to serve alcoholic desserts such as Frose (frozen Rose), red wine slushies, and milkshakes with cocktail ingredients.
Takeout and Delivery
Takeout and delivery profits are now impossible to ignore, driven by consumer demand and technology and apps such as DoorDash, Seamless, Eat24, and Uber Eats. This will force redesigned order pickup areas, second makelines, and separate drive-throughs for delivery drivers.
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Data You Eat
Data will continue to drive every aspect of restaurant operations. Whether it’s smart restaurant equipment connected to the Internet of Things, personalized marketing campaigns, or real-time inventory control and shift scheduling.
Expect to see more vegetables as centerpiece main courses in the coming year.
Baby Boomers on Both Sides of the Counter
While Millennials have now officially overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest age cohort, the latter are still the richest. Expect restaurants to aim more of their menus towards this cohort—and to hire more of them. Workers 55 and older are the fastest growing sector of the restaurant industry, according to the National Restaurant Association.
The Taste of Nostalgia
Mac and cheese, tater tots, chicken nuggets, and edible cookie dough are making their presence known in unexpectedly refined places, according to NRN. Think deviled eggs, upscale meatloaf, crudités and more.
Asian and Mexican
Expect to see more dishes from the Philippines like sizzling sisig, longganisa, lumpia, and kare-kare. Watch for upscale Korean restaurants to blow up, with their complex fermented dishes featuring heavy umami and lots of spice. Chinese cuisine will become more regionally specific to areas such as Hunan, Shandong province and Beijing. Likewise with new interpretations of dishes specific to Mexico’s 31 states and sub-regions.