The tradition of families gathering for dinner is still alive but what’s on the table may not be mama’s home cooking but a bucket of chicken or Chinese takeout. Statistics from Toast show that 51% of consumers surveyed ate out more than once a week. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average family spends more than $3,000 on meals out each year.
While the family dinner table has changed, so has the restaurant business. Consumer palates and habits change. Who would have thought 10 years ago that consumers would be so crazy about pumpkin spice and avocado toast? 2018 promises to be a year of change for the restaurant and food business. We’ve summarized what some of the experts are saying about what we will see.
As more Americans adopt healthier diets, many become vegan. More plant products will be making their way into grocery stores which will put more of them on restaurant plates. Look for more items centered around vegetables including some plant-based meat substitutes.
But not everyone will want to forgo meat. Many diners will still want that lean piece of meat on the center of their plates. Chicken, particularly rotisserie, will be included in many of the dishes. Lamb is also becoming more popular, according to Ric Scicchitano, managing partner of Food and Drink Resources. That’s due in part to the rising popularity of Middle Eastern cuisine which often includes lamb. Also look for Asian dishes to continue to be favorites among diners.
Many prognosticators agree that so-called “street foods” will even move into some fine dining establishments. Dumplings, kabobs, and tempura are some of the foods that could become in high demand.
The journey from farm to table is expected to be shorter for some restaurant and foodservice providers. Continuing a trend that began in 2017, more restaurant owners will turn to local growers and food producers, according to the National Restaurant Association. This includes vegetables and meats. Dishes with more whole grains and proteins will also be on menus as consumers want healthier options.
Diners may be seeking flavors they can smell in their gardens. Lavender and hibiscus will not just be featured in teas but in other dishes as well. Many restaurants already make their own sauces and condiments (think Zaxby’s chicken sauce), but this will continue to be a trend in 2018.
Craft beer may still be the rage but non-alcoholic drinks will grow in popularity as restaurants and beverage companies experiment with new offerings. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, restaurants will make many of these beverages in-house. Some of them will be made with fresh juices to appeal to health-conscious diners. Look for some interesting taste combinations in your glass in 2018.
One 2017 trend that will hang around the next year—flavored sparkling water. Brands like La Croix will continue to be popular in grocery stores and diners will be asking for them as well.
Consumers will still want alcohol-infused beverages. Many restaurants will turn to local craft beer and winemakers. Also look for restaurants to create their own cocktails with a regional twist, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Many of today’s diners are not just looking for a good meal, they are looking for a total dining experience. Food posts are popular on social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook. These can lead to free advertising for restaurant owners so it is in their best interest to create dishes that are not only tasty, but look good on the plate.
Even in this age of security breaches and cybersecurity threats, some consumers are eager to share their data. Restaurant owners will welcome this data in 2018 and use it to personalize the dining experience. Look for more mobile apps and online offers, even from some exclusive restaurants. Fast food restaurants, which have been some of the first foodservice businesses to offer mobile apps, are expected to lead in technology with new self-ordering kiosks. According to Restaurant Business Online, employees will also benefit from personalization as better career tracks and job experiences are created.
Also trending, more involvement from the government in the form of immigration crackdowns and minimum wage requirements.
As diners look for restaurants that are socially responsible, more owners are looking at different ways to dispose of waste. Some of the methods include smaller portions and donations to food banks. Not only is this good for the environment, but it can control food costs.
The weirdest trend?
Pictures of black ice cream cones and other foods with added charcoal began appearing on social media sites at the end of 2017. Charcoal is touted as a detoxifier and social media addicts think the pictures look cool. The trend may not last long but look for more black foods during the year.
2018 will be a big year for the food industry with lots of new trends. Restaurants and food manufacturers need to stay on top of the trends to keep their bottom line going in the right direction. What food trends do you see for 2018?