Wednesday, January 6, 2016

5 - 2015 Restaurant Predictions That Will Continue to Advance in 2016

As we enter a brand new year we get to look back at the year just passed and forecast trends for the upcoming year. Here are five trends that grew in 2015 and are on path to increase even more in 2016.

Guest facing technology

One prediction that proved true in 2015 and is still growing into 2016 is that regarding technology for the diner.There's been a strong uptake as more and more restaurants seeing the advantage. Guest facing technology can streamline service, decrease labor costs, and improve customer impressions. With the popularity of smartphones and the convenience of electronic payment, the variety of apps that are gaining usage among diners include:
  • pre-ordering food before you arrive,
  • restaurants delivering food via food delivery services,
  • pre-paid reservation software,
  • pay-at-table apps so that you can get up and leave at the end of the meal.
It could soon be the demise of tipping — in fine dining restaurants. Until now the typical tipping routine was to leave cash on the table or calculate an addition to your credit card charge with the amount being arbitrarily left up to the diner. At first it was a handful of independent restaurants trying different methods to deal with tipping and wages, but now important restaurateurs such as Tom Colicchio and Danny Meyers are leading the charge in the fine dining world. Not far behind are some casual restaurant chains, such as Joe's Crab Shack. Changes to tipping include:
  • automatically adding in X% as a flat amount,
  • replacing tipping with a service charge,
  • replacing tipping and raising menu prices.
Famous chefs breaking from fine dining  
Last year saw the opening of José Andrés' Beefsteak, a fast casual vegetarian restaurant. Shake Shack has proven to be one of Danny Meyers' most popular brands. Chefs are realizing that while fine dining only reaches a small percentage of people, casual restaurants can appeal to the masses and therefore are easier to duplicate and expand.

Meanwhile chefs explore other areas. Daniel Giusti left his position as head chef at world renowned Noma in order to cook for school children. Up in the skies you can now have food by Heston Blumenthal on British Airways, Joel Robuchon on Air France, and Hawaii's top chefs on Hawaiian Airlines. Each of these cases are examples of chefs looking for culinary challenges — whether appealing to children's palates or tweaking food against the challenges of altitude dining.

Increase of fast casual concepts
As mentioned above, even famous chefs are recognizing the potential of casual dining, especially fast casual concepts. Teetering on the edge between a sit-down restaurant and the eat-and-run fast food establishment, fast casual has seen an ever increasing appeal by busy people. In fact, fast casual concepts have been growing in the double digit percentages every year; they increased their collective annual sales by 12.8 percent to $30 billion in 2014. According to Technomic, "that growth rate was nearly double the next-largest increase from any other restaurant segment".  Look for "Chipotle-style" concepts with pizzas, Hawaiian poke, rice/noodle bowls, and more over the next few years.

Crafty cocktails and mocktails
Many will say that the fine dining revolution has taken place over the last 30 years. The new revolution has been at the bar. Bartenders have been reaching back to the pre-prohibition era and learning not only to craft their own beers, whiskies, and other alcohols, but also the flavoring agents that make cocktails sparkle — bitters and shrubs. Well schooled bartenders are now flexing their creativity by making housemade bitters and shrubs using fresh, local ingredients. 

The beauty of these mixers is that they can also be used in mocktails, or non-alcohol cocktails. Mocktails are finding their way to bar menus to cater to those who don't or can't drink alcohol. Gone are the days of the simple Shirley Temple. Now mocktails are crafted with the same flair as the best cocktails.

What trends have you seen in the last year that you expect to grow in the future?

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