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Just like anywhere else, the culinary world and the restaurant industry shifts, changes, and progresses each year as trends develop, rise to popularity, and fall out of favor to make space for new innovations. Each year brings speculation and prediction about what the next year will hold, but now that we’re a few months into 2018 we can move beyond projections and into analyzing what the year will actually have in store.

If you’re curious about what to expect, here’s a rundown of what those 2018 restaurant industry trends are shaping up to be.

Like never before: New restaurant trends

Perhaps the most astonishing food trend of 2018 is the resurgence of food courts. “Once considered the last place any self-respecting food lover would go, and often found hidden away on the extremities of a shopping [center], the food court of today is unrecognizable from the 1980’s model,” notes Big Hospitality. Capitalizing on the communal dining trend, food courts are becoming mainstream again in Asian locales like Indonesia, Singapore, and Hong Kong which means it’s only a matter of time until the trend makes its way to the States.

Food trends: What you’ll find on people’s plates

According to Webstaurant Store’s blog, 2018 is coming in hot with probiotics. “Foods that contain probiotics, a type of bacteria that is good for digestion, have become popular among health-conscious diners,” the blog notes. That means that you can expect to see a lot of Asian ingredients ripe with the bacteria like kimchi and miso.

Speaking of Asian flavors, 2018 is also going to be filled with flavors from around the globe. Hawaiian, Filipino, Polynesian, and Middle Eastern flavors are making their way into to repertoire of more and more American chefs this year.

When it comes to booze, Webstaurant Store notes that low octane libations are popular. “Made with spirits like vermouth, sherry, and Campari, low octane cocktails have a lower alcohol percentage than standard drinks but are still packed with flavor.”

What other food trends are in store? Get your copy of Upserve’s The Pass. Restaurateurs are always trying to stay ahead of changing consumer tastes. But the secret sauce is knowing what’s hype and what’s hot and using actual data pulled from thousands of restaurants, Upserve reports on just that.

All things tech

2018 is the year of restaurants getting smarter about data according to Restaurant Business, and it’s being used as a means to a specific end: personalization. “Data will drive virtually every element of restaurant operations, from personalized marketing appeals to hyper-customized menu suggestions and ultra-efficient kitchen design loaded with ‘smart’ data-gathering equipment.”

If you’ve been holding off on updating your POS system or finally getting on the iPad bandwagon, now is the time to do it.

Quick service trends

When it comes to fast food trends in 2018, QSR magazine predicts a high level of competition for customers alongside a demand for healthier ingredients and Instagram-worthy dishes. Americans are also looking for spicier food options from fast service spots that they expect to be speedier than before. “Diners are busier than ever. And that means speed and convenience will still reign supreme in 2018,” explains QSR.

Check out trends in Upserve’s State of the Industry Report!
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Cinnamon is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and journalist who paid a large part of her way through college and graduate school by serving. Her work has been published with outlets like National Geographic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, and more. You can read more about her at www.cinnamon-janzer.com.
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