Intelligence firm Mintel predicts there will be four trends in particular that will have the biggest impact on the restaurant industry in this year.
"Through extensive research and intelligence culled from our Menu Insights database and consumer surveys, we've narrowed down the four biggest foodservice trends that consumers and restaurant operators alike will be focusing on when it comes to nutrition, menus and new concepts," said Kathy Hayden, foodservice analyst at Mintel.
The four trends include:
Beyond beef. Most commodity prices have risen, but none more than beef, and with consumer confidence still low, restaurants will be hesitant to institute drastic price hikes. From smaller steaks to "premium" chicken positioning, operators will use creative menu tactics to defray high ingredient prices in 2013.
Beverage innovation. Beverages have always been a reliable profit center for restaurants, but relying on these add-on sales isn't as easy as pouring a big gulp any longer. Today's gourmet cocktails, craft beers and super-nutritional juices and smoothies have raised expectations for the beverage category, and keeping up with the innovation will become a vital part of all segments of the foodservice industry.
Quality ingredient sourcing. While 2012's "pink slime" story may have simmered down, each new food safety scare leaves a residue that will continue for years. Growing consumer concern about food quality, processing and safety means that operators can't cut corners when it comes to ingredient sourcing. And, whether it's "cage-free eggs" or "made-on-premises," choosing the right menu language is as important as choosing the right ingredients in building customers' trust.
24/7 culture. From roaming food trucks to self-serve coffee kiosks and more advanced vending machines, fresh, high-quality food is available in more places and whenever customers want it. Such all-access eating means that traditional restaurants need to adjust their business models and find ways to stay nimble to keep up with the many new ways people can feed their cravings.
Read more about restaurant trends.