What’s eating the restaurant business? Discover the 4 big trends facing restaurants

Current trends in food and how to deal with them

Fashionable food trends, scandals, global megatrends and hypes - they all shape and shake up the food industry that you, as a restaurant expert, are part of. But how do know if you should take a trend with a pinch of salt or are it is genuine shift that changes the way your business should operate? No worries, let us give you a hand with that. Read on to learn what trends are huge and happening and how you can turn them into business opportunities!

TREND 1: Vegetarian: tasty, green and cruelty-free

Let’s share some snackable facts: The demand for vegan/vegetarian food options has increased by 987% in 2017 and has prompted 51% of the chefs to add these to their menu. It probably comes as no surprise then that in Italy, we have seen a 6.2% increase of vegetarians since 2017, and it’s still growing!

As a food expert, you can’t ignore the fact that vegetarianism is here to stay. Even non-vegetarians and flexitarians are more conscious about the origin of their meat and fish these days, and with lab-grown meat alternatives becoming available, we’ve hardly seen the end of this movement.

It is obvious that this veggie movement has shifted our perception of food. Vegetarian or vegan options are now a regular food option, next to meat and fish. For restaurant owners, this means adapting and embracing this trend and the following pointers will help you do just that:

  • Provide a vegetarian choice – Seems obvious, but almost every group of eaters may have a vegetarian or vegan guest in their ranks. Don’t miss out the whole group by excluding one of them!
  • Offer variety! – Enable guests to pick and mix their dishes. This enables them to experience a freedom of choice and variety, without adding too many options to the menu.
  • Embed vegetarian options in your menu – Don’t make your vegetarian offering hidden or on demand. Offer it as a regular option on your menu as a flexitarian option!
  • Rethink your ingredients – A lot of foods that do not contain meat traditionally still contain animal by-products (like gelatin, stock from beef, etc.), so rethink those to allow more freedom in options.
  • Use food labels – Food labels on your menu, indicating dishes that are meat or dairy free, make it much easier for customers to make their decision. It’s a welcoming gesture for any dietary choice.

TREND 2: Home delivery: eat wherever, whenever, whatever

Where in the past, the only thing you’d order was pizza or Chinese take-out, ordering in is now a common practice for any food available. With services like Deliveroo, JustEat and Foodora, home delivery has rapidly become a booming business and an average annual growth of almost 15% has been predicted for 2018-2019 (according to research by McKinsey) for online delivery orders. And it’s huge, which is proven by the emerging trend of dark kitchens, which are container-based food delivery kitchens, without an actual restaurant, purely focused on home delivery.

But the challenge grows even more as the quality of home delivery is now able to equal the quality in restaurants thanks to innovative packaging and products. This means suppliers are focusing their innovation on home delivery too. One example is Lamb Weston’s Hot2Home concept, with improved fries and smart packaging materials that ensure hot & crispy fries, regardless of if they are served on a plate or from a delivery bag 20 minutes later. As this quality gap closes, restaurants are facing a challenge in both attracting restaurant visitors with a worthwhile experience and providing quality for home delivery. Some businesses might even have to choose between keeping the doors open or banking on delivery. The prediction is that we are moving towards a 24/7-delivery service, which means it is essential for you to rethink your business or cut your losses.

TREND 3: Health: the Food+ experience

It’s not just gluten-free or trendy diets anymore; customers look for healthy choices and take health in general to the next level. They look for a so-called ‘food+ experience’, where food doesn’t just nourish you but helps you as well. For example: yogurt with additional protein to gain muscles or shakes, energy bars and meals that help you lose weight or feel fitter. Some restaurants go so far as offering personalized menus for your health goals and body characteristics. But though this health awareness is huge, a visit to a restaurant also revolves around indulgence and treating oneself. As a food professional, the challenge is in offering tasty food on the one hand, but also healthy options and freedom for customers on the other hand. Enabling customers to make their own choices can be key:

  • Reconsider your portion size and the amount of vegetables on a plate.
  • Offer sauces separately, so customers can decide how much they will add.
  • Use less salt in your dishes, but provide spices on the table for a personalized taste.
  • Offer a pick and mix menu, with different options and sizes for a healthier meal.
  • Provide product information, enabling your customers to make the (more) healthy choice.

Most of all, stick to what fits your restaurant concept best and use your common sense to figure out what works and what doesn’t. That way, your business stays healthy too!

TREND 4: Sustainability: better food for a better planet

Sustainability touches every aspect of the food industry and offers opportunities to do things better, front of house but also in the kitchen. After all, awareness has grown of the dire situation our planet is in and every small opportunity offers a step forward. So grab your chances for better practices because when it comes to environmental impact, your customers are expecting responsibility:

  • Packaging – Opt for durable packaging materials for takeaway and where possible, biodegradable alternatives to reduce the amount of harmful waste.
  • Traceable products – Make sure you can explain where your products come from. Source fresh products locally or offer organic options, which earn you sustainability bonus points with customers.
  • Optimize your menu – Again, offering the ability to scale, pick and mix will prevent food from going into the bin. You’ll also be able to optimize in accordance with the customers’ needs. Win-win!

Want to read more about sustainability? Check out our blog on this topic.

Sink your teeth into market trends

Most market trends you face as a restaurant professional need to be met with a healthy portion of sense. Ask yourself: how relevant is a trend for you and does it fit your concept? Nothing can quite replace your own gut feeling, but it’s vital to keep yourself up-to-date. Make sure to follow the market by checking out relevant hashtags on social media, read trend reports and make sure you get a steady flow of input newsletters (like Eat This!). This way, you’ll never be out of touch!

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