What’s on the menu for restaurants this year? Fast Casual pulled together the hottest restaurant trends as predicted by trend-watchers. Here’s what you need to know to keep your restaurant on the cutting edge:
- Fast casual is growing. According to Mintel, fast casual will still continue to dominate as consumers seek better-quality food and a nicer experience than fast food, but at a low price point. In fact, premium restaurants are copying some elements of the fast casual experience, such as getting people in and out faster (especially during lunch) and adding healthier menu items.
- Transparency is clearly here to stay. Customers want to know where their food comes from and how it’s made. They also want to know the details on everything from how the animals are treated to what ingredients are in a dish. The more information you can provide, the better.
- Women and seniors are an underserved market. Mintel says women eat out less often than men, probably because they are more concerned about health and calories. Technomic predicts the number of seniors eating out will grow, but notes that seniors are also very health- and budget-conscious. Restaurants need to reach out to these demographics with lower-calorie, healthier and affordable menu items, as well as inviting atmospheres.
- Technology marches on. Restaurants are adding mobile payments, tablets as order-takers or entertainers, and creating mobile websites to attract customers on the go. They’re also using digital loyalty programs customers can access on their smartphones.
- Sour is sweet. Food IQ predicts sour will be the hot taste for craft beers this year, and the flavor will expand to food items.
- Brazilian sizzles. Brazil will be hot this year due to major sporting events in the country, and that will spark awareness of Brazilian-influenced flavors in dishes and drinks. Get ready to make lots of Caipirinhas!
- Spicy Asian is in. Siracha sauce was, well, hot in 2013, but now consumers are moving beyond it to more exotic Asian spices and sauces, such as chile bean paste, spicy banana sauce or Indonesian Sambai. The Asian population in the U.S. is growing, and NPD says this will influence menus with noodles, rice and other Asian staples popping up in non-traditional places.
- Time to indulge. An equal and opposite trend to healthy eating is indulgence, says Technomic. Carbs, fried foods and cheese will be popular indulgences, as will comforting starches such as ramen, waffles, rice bowls and wraps.