As 2011 begins to wind down, foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic has predicted seven developments that will take shape in the restaurant industry in 2012.
Twists on the familiar is leading the development transition; however, operators are already feeling the pinch of increasing commodity costs. Predicted trends include:
- Twists on the familiar: Consumers are in no mood to take risks, but they still enjoy novel flavors. Look for comfort foods with a twist (gourmet, ethnic, artisan, wood-fired) as well as innovation in familiar formats (sandwiches, wraps, pizza, pasta) rather than breakout items taken from less-familiar global cuisines.
- Commodity costs drive in-house rustic preparations: Commodity costs are rising, labor costs are steady and diners are demanding rustic fare, the simple preparations of fresh ingredients. Operators will curtail purchases of value-added items in favor of cheaper cuts, beans, grains and produce that require more back-of-house prep to transform into homestyle food.
- The evolution of local sourcing: To facilitate flexible purchasing, growers, manufacturers, distributors and operators continue to work toward a more transparent, safe and efficient supply chain, streamlining workflow, recording every step and reducing waste.
- Social networking continues to accelerate: Consumers increasingly trust friends and peers more than professional marketers. They're taking control of social media to share their restaurant experiences and opinions with the public (via review sites such as OpenTable), with their own circles (via Facebook and Foursquare) or both (via Twitter). This helps some restaurants and hurts others.
- Customers want more information: Consumers want transparency — from calories and allergens on menus to labor and local-sourcing practices. A small but growing number are serious about nutrition, labeling, sustainability and community involvement, and they are using such knowledge to make purchasing decisions.
- Operators try to resist discounting: The foodservice industry will continue to operate in a take-share environment, but discounting is cutting to the bone. To counter daily deals and other forms of discounting, operators will turn to creative methods to reward their best customers, such as a free dessert on the spot.
- Expansion through flexible formats: Format flexibility is required as restaurants cater to new around-the-clock dayparts, switch gears from fast casual by day to full-service at night, or transform their kitchens into catering commissaries during slow times. This flexibility is also evidenced in streamlined, high-efficiency smaller-footprint units and brand extensions.
Read more about trends and statistics.