Emerging Trends in the Restaurant Industry
To keep up with restaurant-goers fickle palettes and dining demands, the restaurant industry has had to continuously adapt to meet customer’s changing needs. As a result, new restaurant trends are constantly emerging and changing the dining landscape. Below are some trends that are emerging to-date in 2008.
Speed is no longer for just fast-food restaurants. Customers want their orders ready five minutes ago! Many customers already call ahead to restaurants for pick-up to eliminate any waiting. Restaurants are taking speed to the next level by enabling customers to place orders via text-messaging and web-enabled payment methods. Some table-service restaurants, not wanting to lose out because of speed, have started packaging orders and delivering it to their customers.
Niche restaurant establishments focus on a particular food and develop different and unique ways of serving it while simultaneously creating a brand around the specific product. While some of the food might seem ordinary, how these restaurants differentiate the product is by reinventing it. Upcoming niche concepts include –
• Frozen yogurt – an acidic treat
• Cupcakes – decadent flavors and assorted icings
• Hot chocolate – infused with chilies or other spices
• Raw seafood bars – serving rare delicacies
• Cheese – specialty flavors from around the world paired with wines
• Beer – brewed in-house or internationally imported
Healthy and Ethical Products
Government regulation and consumer advocacy are driving forces behind the shift in the industry towards healthy eating. Since this trend has emerged, changes already in progress include eliminating trans fats, artificial colors, excessive salt and anything ‘unnatural’ out of ingredient lists for both quick service and table service establishments. Restaurants are also opting to use local and ethically sourced foods in menu items, favoring ingredients which are certified organic and touting this on menus. In addition, restaurants are providing its patrons with biodegradable and recyclable products as part of the dining experience.
Menu Items for Kids
The push for healthy eating at restaurants is not just for adults. Parents want kid-sized portions of regular menu items available, instead of the current greasy options found on kids-menus. With more families dining out, offering a kid-sized option might determine which establishments will dominate the family dining segment of the industry.
Portion Size – one size doesn’t fit all
In addition to kids-sized portions, adults also want to choose their own portion size. Since not everyone has the same appetite, many restaurants are starting to offer entrees in a range of sizes – small, medium or large.
Chocolate Sauce with Your Fries?
With so many restaurants in the market, owners and chefs alike are looking to differentiate themselves and offer their patrons a unique eating experience. As a result, many restaurants are experiencing concept overhauls where chefs are redesigning their food and menu offering, pairing unlikely ingredients together like sweet and savory. How does foie gras and chocolate ice cream sound? Does chocolate infused duck wet your appetite?
That Was Unexpected
The price and availability of prime real-estate is forcing many restaurant owners in the quick and table service industry to open shop outside the traditional venues of downtown or in tourist areas. Quick service restaurants are opening in unexpected locations like airports, campuses, or office buildings. Table-service restaurants are opening off the main streets and in developing neighborhoods. While traffic might be slower in these locations, owners can focus on developing the brand while saving on rent and having reduced competition.
Only time will tell how these emerging trends fair in the restaurant industry. One certainty is if customers don’t like anything, they’ll take their business and money elsewhere forcing restaurant owners to seek out new trends.