Trend Tracking

Written By Kimberley Cuachon Haugh —

What’s influencing today’s restaurant trends?

Survival in the food industry is about balancing who you are and keeping up with the trends.   It’s this antithesis that will lure customers from the competition.  As a consumer, you have influenced these trends, probably without even knowing it. 

Hesitance to spend: Because of today’s economic uncertainty customers are more interested in that less expensive meal.  However expectations are higher than ever.  The proper answer must be given to the question, “Why should I spend my money there?”

“I can’t eat that:” 15 million people in America suffer from some sort of food allergy or intolerance, according to Food Allergy Research & Education.  Restaurants are recognizing this much more, far beyond offering just a vegetarian option.  Kind of like wheel chair accessibility, these restaurants are making themselves approachable to more people rather than shutting dietary restricted customers out.

Health:  While the majority of us are health conscious, the truth is when we go out to eat we like to indulge.  My M.O. is, “Make me something I don’t do at home.”  Yes, restaurants are providing these healthy menu items, primarily due to media scrutiny, but they are doing an admirable job balancing what customers are actually ordering.

Tick, tock: Time is of the essence and we seem to always be strapped for it.  24 hours in a day sometimes isn’t enough.  Therefore restaurants must balance quick serve times, especially during the business lunch hours, and must accommodate.  On the retail level, to-go lunches and dinner are increasingly popular.

Access to info:  Traditional and social media, especially, have forced restaurants to be much more transparent.  Consumers because of their wide access to information are becoming more and more savvy and aware of specialty ingredients and even their cost.  Restaurants are now stepping up their A-game by staying on top of buzz-worthy ingredients such as premium aged meat, Kobe beef, exotic spices, micro greens, micro brews and gourmet cheeses.  Chances are all of these have their own hashtag.  The explosion of social media has also brought on social awareness.  Customers are taking reviews to heart and restaurants are being held accountable.  Local and sustainable are the key to a customer’s heart to spend the extra money and give themselves kudos for a good deed.