Top 10 Restaurant Trends for Restaurateurs to Keep in Mind

The dizzying number of restaurant industry trends can be exciting, inspiring, anxiety-provoking or just confusing,depending on your perspective.  Tech and economic trends, changing consumer preferences, new regulations and supply chain challenges all influence how restaurants will fare in the months ahead.  Here are ten of the most relevant restaurant trends of 2017.

Pile of peppers

  • Hot menu items. A recent National Restaurant Association survey of over 13,000 chefs provides helpful insights about shifting demands for ingredients and menu items.  A few new hot commodities include new cuts of meat, heirloom vegetables and fruits, and ancient grains like spelt, amaranth and kamut.  African spices like harissa are also becoming more popular.
  • “Yesterday’s news.” The same survey flagged a few menu items that are waning in popularity.  These include quinoa, flatbread pizza and sweet potato fries (Say it ain’t so!).  The survey is a great source for market info and new ideas.
  • Social restaurant platforms and apps. Consumers are increasingly relying on mobile apps to decide where to dine.  These apps feature reviews, location-based restaurant searches, and menus.  Some apps, like Hooked, provide flash discounts and a great way to discover local restaurants,others allow you to book reservations, view menus or place carry out orders most allow people to post reviews.  If you’re a restaurateur, you’ll definitely want to have a presence on Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor and at least one additional social platform.  Yelp Check-in Offers are a proven way to bring more people in the door, while GrubHub provides homebodies extra delivery options.
  • Street-food inspired dishes. Chefs and diners somehow figured out that street tacos, arepas, dumplings and kabobs taste just as good when you’re sitting down in a restaurant.  No complaints here!
  • Better restaurant software platforms. Business-facing software has changed dramatically in the last few years.  To succeed in today’s market, a restaurant needs more than a reliable point-of-sale system.  Although reliable and well-known, Square is best suited for smaller cafes and quick service restaurants.  Platforms like Toast, can track inventory and customer data, manage loyalty programs, and allow quick menu modification and tableside ordering. It even generates in-depth reports to help guide managerial decisions.  Different systems have different relative advantages depending on whether you’re running a full-service restaurant, bakery, or restaurant with multiple locations. Using the right consumer- and business-facing applications is essential for driving referrals, improving rankings, attracting Millennials and preventing snafus.

Wontons with dipping sauce on wooden table

  • Healthful kids meals. Today’s chefs are finding it important to offer more healthy kids meals.  All those 30-somethings that grew up on burgers, fries and chicken fingers are pickier than their parents were about their children’s diets.  It sounds kind of cruel until you realize they have more and tastier options.
  • Doing more in-house. More and more restaurants are making condiments, pickles, artisan cheese and artisan meats in-house.  They’re also growing more herbs and produce on-site, and restaurant patrons love it!
  • Local sourcing. Consumer preferences for locally-sourced ingredients are still on the rise.  Many restaurants have capitalized on this by highlighting local farms and artisans on their menus.  Farm-to-table restaurants epitomize this, also catering to consumer sensitivities about sustainability.
  • Chef-driven fast casual. According to the National Restaurant Association, this is the number 1 restaurant concept trend.  In the last decade this category has vastly outpaced traditional fast-food growth.  Chipotle, Panera and a couple others led the charge, but every city has their own small chains or stand-alone restaurants.  Wing Shack in Fort Collins is a great example.

Food truck with woman and child ordering at night

  • And finally, The Food Truck Thing. In case you just escaped captivity after a decade on a remote island, the food truck industry has been growing dramatically.  Yet as the Economist recently reported, “counties that have experienced higher growth in mobile-food services have also had quicker growth in their restaurant and catering businesses.”  The industry has grown faster than the rules and etiquette addressing it, so there will still be some head butting.  Even so, food truck openings will continue to outpace restaurant openings. Interestingly, food trucks are increasingly opening brick and mortar restaurants.  If you’re able to piggyback off the success of a food truck and open a sit down restaurant, you’re probably going to fare well.  Time will tell.

What are some food service trends you’ve noticed as a consumer, chef or restaurant manager?  We’d love to hear from you whether you’ve had success with any of these trends or other insights to share!