*Fast casual’s momentum continues. The fast casual format’s impressive growth — which has been driven by consumers’ willingness to pay more (despite continued price-consciousness) for healthier and better-quality offerings — is expected to enjoy continued momentum, thanks in part to a “slew” of new concepts focusing on customization, speed of service and convenience.
These include higher-quality burger chains; concepts more firmly focused on health; and a growing number of pizza restaurants that can deliver a fully-cooked, customized pizza in a matter of minutes.
*Premium proves practical. Full-service concepts are adopting fast casual practices to boost their own performance. For example, several full-service brands are testing or have launched concepts that employ the speedier fast casual service model (particularly important during the lunch rush). Other tactics include launching healthier, more flavorful menu items and employing technology to speed up the dining experience.
*Open-book business practices. Consumers are increasingly demanding transparency not only in restaurants’ ingredient sourcing (and treatment of animals in the supply chain), but in general business practices, including employee policies and treatment. Consumers are interested in patronizing restaurants and buying brands that reflect their own values. Concepts that understand this and offer more information about their green practices or the causes they support stand to reap the rewards of increased loyalty.
*Due demographic diligence. While restaurant operators’ “obsession” with Millennials is understandable, given that Millennials are the most likely to dine out in nearly every restaurant segment, other demographics also represent important opportunities.
Specifically, serving the rapidly expanding Hispanic population (whose spending power is projected to reach nearly $1.7 trillion by 2017) is critical to restaurants’ growth in the years ahead. Moreover, Hispanics tend to dine out in larger groups.
Women visit restaurants less frequently than men, which likely reflects women being more health- and budget-conscious. This points to opportunities for restaurants to attract more business from women by focusing on pricing, atmosphere and menu offerings.
While Baby Boomers enjoy dining out and have more disposable income than other demographics, few restaurant marketing campaigns have specifically targeted this demographic.
*The technology interface revolution. Restaurants are increasingly employing technology to cut service times, and to offer loyalty programs, promotions and discounts electronically. Growing numbers are also offering in-store table-top tablets and menu boards that provide nutritional and other information, while reducing order, wait and check-out times.
In addition, brands are redesigning their Web sites to allow consumers to access information (and order) with as few clicks as possible, and to be user-friendly across smartphones and other mobile devices.
2014 Culinary Trends
Meanwhile, the NRA’s “What’s Hot” culinary forecast for the year ahead (based on surveying nearly 1,300 professional chefs) highlights 10 key trends, including: locally sourced meats and seafoods; locally grown produce; environmental sustainability; healthful kids’ meals and a focus on children’s nutrition; gluten-free cuisine; hyper-local sourcing (such as restaurant gardens); non-wheat noodles and pasta (such as quinoa, rice, buckwheat); sustainable seafood; and farm/estate-branded menu items.
The five items with the highest points as “perennial trends” were fried chicken, Italian cuisine, frying, barbecue and eggs Benedict.
The big alcohol/cocktail trends for 2014 include micro-distilled/artisan spirits, locally produced beer/wine/spirits, on-site barrel-aged drinks, culinary cocktails (e.g., using savory, fresh ingredients) and regional signature cocktails.
Current trends expected to continue in 2014 include foam/froth/air, bacon-flavored chocolate, fish offal, gazpacho and fun-shaped children’s items.
For more culinary forecast trends are summarized on National Restaurant Association’s site.
Source: mediapost.com, 12-19-13