Restaurant Trends to Watch for in 2018

Chef behind counter at fast casual restaurantAs 2018 approaches, all eyes in the restaurant industry are looking ahead to the next year.

What will menus look like? How will staffing change? What kind of technology solutions will we see?

The American Restaurant Association releases a list of trends every year, and while there are far too many to discuss in a single blog post, here are a few of the top trends we’ll be watching for in 2018.

Off-premise continues to gain momentum

The growing number of restaurants that are embracing delivery and take-out options will continue to rise.

This will have an effect on restaurant design, among other things, as restaurants revamp their order pickup areas, rework parking to accommodate delivery drivers, and adding additional make-lines devoted to online and delivery orders.

Chefs expand into the fast casual market

As we’ve seen with concepts like Wolfgang Puck’s The Kitchen and Tom Colicchio’s ’Wichcraft (which debuted in 2003, but has recently undergone a rebranding and relaunch), fine dining chefs and fast casual food are no longer mutually exclusive.

Expect this interest in chef-driven fast casual restaurants to grow in the coming year, with many chefs enlisting the help of restaurant consultants to open and manage multiple locations.

Greater reliance on data

As fine dining becomes less popular, and the fast casual sector grows, more restaurants will be looking for software to help them stay competitive.

While the restaurant industry as a whole has been somewhat slow to embrace the power of data, that’s changing. More restaurants will be looking for software solutions and apps that can help them market to the right audience, adjust their menus without alienating guests, and keep their staff motivated.

More interest in ethnic cuisine

Menus will see more foods from cuisines that have been hitherto lesser-known in the United States, like Filipino or Tibetan.

As chefs introduce traditional ingredients, spices, and reimagined dishes from different countries into mainstream dining, we’ll start to see a shift in the American palate. This embrace of exciting, unusual tastes will trickle into every corner of the food industry – although it won’t overcome the reclaiming of simple, traditional foods that’s occurred over the past 10 or so years.

A shift from local to hyper-local

Customers have been demanding more local foods for years, but now, many restaurants are taking that one step further.

On-site gardens, housemade items, and in-kitchen processing are all growing in popularity and show no signs of slowing.

More vegetable-centric cuisine

Vegetable-centric and plant-based eating continue to be popular among diners, and restaurants are responding to this trend.

We’ll see more menus adding veggie-centric sections that move meat to the side of – or even completely off – the plate. Vegetarians and vegans, as well as those with allergies and other sensitivities, will find they have more options this year than they did last year. And as chefs embrace the challenge of making inspired veggie-centric cuisine, we’ll see the quality and creativity of these dishes grow.

If there’s one trend we know is here to stay, it’s the importance of using data to inform your restaurant’s operations. If you’d like to discover more about what you could be learning with the right analytics, take a look at Marketing Vitals’ solutions here. For more on 2018 restaurant trends, read part 2 of this post here.

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