The new year is here, and it's time to look at emerging restaurant industry trends. While the restaurant industry deals with ongoing supply chain issues, labor shortages, and the unprecedented inflation rate, planning for what's next is essential. Here are six restaurant industry trends to spot.
Local, sustainable ingredients
While sourcing local goods for restaurants isn't new, the importance of staying local when purchasing has reached a new level of significance thanks to recent supply chain issues and rising fuel costs. Previously, buying local was a gold star of achievement — a signal that your restaurant cared about where its ingredients came from.
Today, buying locally is also a practical business decision as it cuts down the uncertainty of ordering goods through an unstable supply chain; plus, it can help reduce costs and ensure your ingredients are fresh. Doing your part to support local farmers and suppliers, keeping the money in your community, and reducing fossil fuel emissions are all benefits you can sell to your customers.
Customers care about your menu's impact on the planet. While local ingredients are part of that, the concept of "sustainable" takes it one step further. Food sustainability looks at the whole production picture, from soil health to water use to animal welfare. Consider these aspects when you pick your suppliers. As the environment's future looms large in the public eye, people are becoming increasingly focused on agriculture and its impact on environmental issues. A commitment to sustainability will attract quality employees and customers who appreciate your commitment to a healthy planet.
Vegetarian & vegan "meat" options
Meat alternatives and plant-based meats are so mainstream that they are featured at spots like Burger King and Taco Bell. But the market for plant-based meats is far from peaking. It's no longer just burgers that have made the switch: vegan chicken nuggets, vegan chorizo, and even vegan bacon are widely seen at restaurants around the country.
If your restaurant is missing out on the plant-based trend, you're probably missing out on vegan or vegan-curious customers. In fact, one in 10 Americans now says they're vegan. There's also an uptick in entirely plant-based restaurants with meatless ingredients on their menus, like entirely plant-based Monty's Good Burger in L.A. and Atlanta-based Slutty Vegan that serves decadently topped vegan burgers, vegan chicken sandwiches, and vegan cheesesteaks.
The next frontier in plant-based foods appears to be seafood alternatives - a response to the ocean's dwindling supply due to overfishing, while interest in eating seafood continues to rise. There's also a concern about high mercury levels found in some fish and the prevalence of seafood allergies. Alternatives to seafood include using vegetables and other ingredients to mimic the taste of seafood and using brands that sell faux fish burgers, vegan shrimp, and other ready-made seafood alternatives.
Virtual restaurants & ghost kitchens
In 2023, make sure to be on the lookout for virtual restaurants. They became increasingly popular at the height of the pandemic and have evolved into a stable business model. Also known as ghost kitchens, these virtual kitchens are restaurants that only produce food for pickup or delivery. Most have no dining room or area that resembles a typical restaurant where diners reside. Instead, they work efficiently and quickly to whip up great food for takeout.
As the pandemic motivated diners to take food to go, restaurateurs adjusted and found efficient and cost-effective methods to keep up. If you're trying to pay attention to your bottom line and your restaurant is primarily to-go and delivery, consider eliminating the overhead from maintaining and staffing a dining room or bar.
Social brand presence
Today's younger population turns to social media to find information about everything, including restaurants. In 2023, this trend will only continue. In times past, a restaurant might have been able to get by with only a website; but in today's online world, your digital brand is just as important as physical presence. Don't let these social media platforms intimidate you; fine-tune your presence on the site by making videos that focus on visually striking dishes. Highlight a unique aspect of your menu, show how to make a popular dish, piggyback on a viral moment, or partner with an influencer. Social media is a great tool to boost your customer engagement.
Restaurant management technology
Although the pandemic caused difficulty for restaurants, it also accelerated the role of technology in a way that's beneficial for restaurant owners and allows for a better customer dining experience. Recent restaurant technology trends show that diners are now accustomed to using Q.R. codes to view menus that can be updated in real-time and allow for smooth contactless payment. When customers order via their phone or a kiosk, it reduces employee overhead and cuts down on order errors. With integrated restaurant technology, it's also easy to promote limited-time offers through marketing. This smart use of data will be a top restaurant technology trend for years to come.
No matter what 2023 brings, it's key to anticipate restaurant industry trends. Whether you're experimenting with plant-based meats, going the extra mile on local ingredients, or using cutting-edge restaurant technology to help run your restaurant, you can be confident that you'll be ahead of the curve.