Predicting the year’s coming trends in any industry is a challenge but is even more daunting when it comes to forecasting what’s to come for restaurants, which make up the nation’s second-largest industry.
To give you a little insight on what to expect in 2014, FastCasual.com has gathered predictions from some of the industry’s market research firms, including Mintel, NPD, Food IQ and Technomic.
Julia Gallo-Torres, the company’s category manager of U.S. foodservice, believes restaurants across the board will be affected by these five trends.
1. Fast casual pulling ahead: The impressive growth of the fast casual segment demonstrates consumers, who are still focused on price, are willing to pay more for foods they consider to be of better quality or healthier. To meet that demand, concepts focusing on customization, speed of service and convenience, have recently popped up, including high-quality burger chains, health-focused concepts and top-your-own pizza restaurants. Gallo-Torres expects more to emerge this year
2. Premium proves practical: Full-service concepts are mimicking fast casual restaurants and will continue to test speedier service models. This is important especially during the lunch rush, when consumers don’t have the time to wait. Other tactics include launching healthier, more flavorful menu items and employing technology to speed up the dining experience, Gallo-Torres said.
3. Open-book business practices: Consumers are questioning the origin of their foods and are demanding transparency in ingredient sourcing and in general business practices, including the treatment of animals and employees, Gallo-Torres said. Consumers are interested in patronizing restaurants and buying brands that reflect their own values. Concepts that understand this and offer more information about their green practices or the causes they support stand to reap the rewards of increased loyalty.
4. Marketing to different demos: Operators have been obsessed with Millennials, but three other demographics will move into the spotlight this year: They include: Hispanics, women and baby-boomers.
Hispanics’ spending power is expected to reach nearly $1.7 trillion by 2017, meaning serving this rapidly expanding community will be key to growth.
Women visit restaurants less than men, probably due to their being more health- and budget-conscious, Gallo-Torres said. This indicates restaurants need to do more in terms of pricing, atmosphere and menu to gain momentum with this group.
Baby Boomers enjoy dining out and have more disposable income than other demographics, but few marketing campaigns specifically target them.
5. Technology revolution: Restaurants are increasingly using technology to cut service times and to offer loyalty programs, promotions and discounts electronically. This trend will continue, Gallo-Torres said, with things like in-store tabletop tablets and digital menu boards offering nutritional info becoming more common. Brands are also redesigning their websites and embracing mobile sites, so consumers can have access to restaurant info on their phones.
When it comes to profiling flavors, Food IQ is full of predictions. Daniel Campbell, the company’s Research and Development assistant, expects restaurants to embrace sour recipes, along with locally grown produce, Heirloom beans and Brazilian and spicy Asian flavors.