It was a rocky start for restaurants in 2018. A number of big hospitality chains closed, the looming threat of Brexit continues, demanding customers, increasing expectations, spiraling business rates and rising food and wage costs continue to threaten independents. The mantra ‘evolve or die’ has never been so relevant to restaurateurs.
While the very definition of a trend is a fashion or a fad, food trends provide a valuable insight into where the sector is moving. Embracing some of these trends, or adopting elements into your menu allows you to proposition customers, inviting them to try something new. When executed well, this gives your customers a reason to keep coming back.
Keep it local
Diners are showing a growing interest in where their food comes from, how the produce was reared and how far it’s traveled before it reaches their plate. The ‘MasterChef effect’ has ensured dishes tagged ‘fresh’, ‘local’ or ‘homemade’ have a higher perceived value than meals out of a packet. If we’re talking brass tax, ethically conscious consumers are more valuable to you as a restaurateur as they’re prepared to pay more.
A menu’s seasonality is a clear signal to diners how their food is sourced while offering a valuable marketing opportunity to business owners. Nutrition and environmentalism are key drivers of this ‘farm to fork’ movement and while there may be extra costs and inconvenience incurred, sourcing produce from local producers has the added benefit of supporting the local economy.
It would be impossible to create a list of food trends without a nod to the effect of delivery services such as Deliveroo and UberEATs. While a greasy takeaway will always have a special place in our hearts, millions of us have been enjoying restaurant quality food, sat in our pyjamas, binge-watching game of thrones.
Technology continues to shape our lives in new ways, with the sheer convenience of online ordering changing consumer behaviour. The takeaway sector had an estimated value of £9.7bn to the UK economy in 2017, bridging the gap between restaurants and our homes. Like all businesses, restaurants should be utilising tech to streamline their operations and improve the customer experience. This includes their delivery service. Services like Deliveroo can charge up to 10% of the delivery order, so it could prove costly for independents. Check out apps like Orderlord that connect with your point-of-sale system to add more transparency and reliability in-house delivery.
JustEat named veganism as a top consumer food trend in 2018 following a 94% increase in ‘healthy food’ ordered’. A loyal following of celebrities and athletes are fueling the fashion for what was once considered an ‘alternative’ diet and restaurants are under increasing pressure to offer more availability and choice to this growing demographic.
As we’ve seen with the recent social media movements, #Veganuary and #MeatFreeMonday, vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise, especially amongst younger health-conscious consumers. Not only is this food trend a chance to invite new (and very vocal) customers into your business, but with veggie dishes offering better margins than their meaty counterparts, it’s a welcome opportunity to boost revenue.
Bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘feast for the eyes’, the social media savvy continue to ‘gram’ restaurant #FoodArt, building their following and inspiring jealousy among those with aesthetically challenging dinners. What restaurateurs need to take from this is, for better or worse, looks matter. Ensuring your kitchen staff pay due care and attention to the presentation of your food invites customers to act as brand advocates, promoting your business for free.
Many restaurants have met this change in behaviour by trying to present food in new and unusual ways. Let’s face it, the chances the last burger you ordered arrived on a plate are pretty slim! Undoubtedly fashions will change, so serving your food on a slate in or in a plant pot is no guarantee dishes will be well received. You can see some more questionable examples of restaurants that have fallen foul of this food trend here.
Non-alcoholic premium soft drinks
Perhaps not a food trend but certainly worth mentioning is the increasing popularity of premium soft drinks. We Britons are famously fans of a boozy beverage but it seems more and more of us are shunning alcohol in favour of something a little lighter. Premium soft drink providers have been coining it in, with the sector experiencing a massive 75% growth year on year since 2015.
With one-fifth of British adults labeling themselves as non-drinkers, restaurateurs shouldn’t neglect this growing market. It’s yet to be seen if the newly introduced sugar tax will have an effect on the industry, but it’s advisable to stock a range of reduced sugar alternatives to meet the needs of increasingly health-conscious consumers.
Inclusive allergy aware menus
While there’s some grumbling in the hospitality sector as to whether customers are ‘putting it on’, ‘being fussy’ or ‘just a plain nuisance’, food intolerances have been on the rise since the 90’s, with the Food Standards Agency reporting 10 people in the UK dying each year due to food-induced anaphylaxis. It’s certainly not something to take lightly.
The global gluten-free market alone is expected to be worth over $33Bn by 2025, a figure restaurateurs can’t ignore. Clear labeling systems and compassionate wait staff can make your business much more accessible to allergy suffers. Diners who have been made to feel marginalised in the past are no longer willing to put up with a subpar standard dining experience and are more than happy to shout about it on social media. Allergy awareness is quickly becoming more than just a food trend. It’s a movement. Ignore it at your peril!
Small plates dining
Eating is just one element of a customers dining experience. More and more restaurants are expanding their appetiser menu to serve customers wanting to dabble in a mix and match menu, or be more daring with their culinary choices without committing to a main meal.
The likes of tapas, dim sum and sharer platters are proving popular with diners wanting to share an experience with family and friends.The social nature of small plates dining is especially popular with millenials. This fits into their sharing mentality, both on and offline. Why not try creating your own specialty tapas unique to your area using local and regional produce? Small plates dining allows you to experiment, testing a dishes popularity and giving you the chance to elevate the status of the humble sausage or a spray of handpicked asparagus!
The last word
2018’s food trends continue to throw up new ways for restaurants to delight their customers. While embracing trends is a great way of staying relevant to new and emerging demographics, restaurateurs must always be prepared to provide the highest level of service to secure return custom. As we’ve already discussed, using technology is a means of affording you more control of your business, even changing the perception of your customers.
Knowledge is power and without it, you’re running your business blind. Happy customers leave reviews, spend more and celebrate your business through word of mouth and online. The Customer Happiness Score™ is a means of driving that valuable customer engagement through simple and intuitive feedback surveys that make your customers feel like they have a stake in your business. Book a demo with one our experts today to see how CHS™ can boost your business.