5 Restaurant Trends You Should Know for 2018

We asked restaurant owners like you what they’re focusing on in 2020 and beyond to bring you these top trends.
The restaurant world is constantly changing. Americans now eat out four to five times a week, on average. And that trend isn’t unique—consumers across the world are eating out now more than ever. Millennials alone spend 42% of their budget on dining out and 56% plan on dining out more in the next year.

To get the most out of that business opportunity, we’ve compiled the top trends restaurants should focus on in 2020 and beyond:

1. Technology Is Changing the Restaurant Industry for the Better

Technology lives everywhere, and the restaurant world is no exception. While robots in the back flipping burgers at places like CaliBurger are grabbing headlines, it’s important to see the more basic technological investments that need to be made, too, whether it’s a more sophisticated POS system or even just wifi for your customers.

It’s important to invest in technology…

  • …when the technology can enhance your business. Review sites like TripAdvisor are one such example of a way you can show off your cuisine with photos and reviews—and it’s driving real decisions. A one-star increase in rating leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue, according to HBS.
  • …when you customers demand it. More and more, customers expect restaurants to be as tech savvy and connected as the rest of their world—starting with delivery and mobile ordering.
  • …when your brand believes in it. While technology is critical for your business’ success, you shouldn’t invest in something unless it matches what your restaurant is all about. Technology should complement your existing brand, not completely replace it.

2. Delivery and Mobile Ordering Is The Way of the Future

The most talked about trend? Delivery. Online delivery represented 43% of all orders in 2017 and that’s only going to skyrocket as companies like UberEats make it easier than ever to order online. It’s no longer the domain of quick service restaurants, either. Consumers demand delivery, whether it’s a veal parmigiana or a burger and fries.

And while that’s great for the consumer, delivery presents plenty of challenges when it comes to restaurant operations. Not only do restaurant owners need to grapple with the increased volume of orders in the kitchen and hire staff to cope, they also need to deal with a variety of third party vendors. Adding these vendors into the mix, where owners don’t necessarily control the quality and efficiency of service, can make it difficult to present the best brand image.

With the delivery market forecasted to grow 32% in the next two years, these challenges aren’t going away—restaurant owners must rise to meet them.Restaurant owners aren’t adopting this too quickly yet, though. When we asked Tripadvisor owners what operational trends they were planning on implementing in 2020, only 13% planned to add third-party delivery in 2020 and only 5% planned on implementing delivery-only spaces.

3. Restaurants Need to Invest More to Retain Talent

The restaurant industry is in a moment of crisis when it comes to its employees. Turnover is at an all-time high—at 73% in 2016—and is showing no signs of getting better. According to Elevate, 39% of front-of-house employees leave within the first 90 days, and 42% of back-of-house employees leave in that same period.

More importantly, turnover costs a restaurant dearly. For each employee that leaves, restaurants lose about $2000 worth of training, knowledge, and revenue generation—and for a general manager, that skyrockets to $14,000.

Restaurants can’t afford to ignore the fact that their restaurant culture matters, and it matters to their employees. This means it’s time to start training employees beyond their immediate job, but talking to each person to find out what it is they want to do and giving them a chance to do it. That could be teaching someone about P&L statements, where you source your wine list, or running one of your social media channels. Finding ways to empower your employees to learn more holistically about your business can go a long way toward keeping your employee.

4. Consumers Expect Menus to Match Their Dietary Needs

Consumers are more conscious today of where their food comes from and the impact it has on the environment. Healthy, plant-based foods, superfoods, and “clean eating” are here to stay—and you should plan your menu accordingly. One of the most visible trends from the show was the emphasis on dietary needs—gluten free, dairy free, nut free, organic, or plant-based foods were everywhere. With 1 in 13 kids having some sort of allergy, making sure your kitchen can accommodate special dietary needs isn’t just trendy—it ensures anxious parents will choose your restaurant over a competitor. See our tips on building an allergy-friendly menu here.

5. Experience Is Everything

The success of your restaurant ultimately comes down to your hospitality—how your restaurant makes a diner feel. Increasingly, consumers look to restaurants to provide an experience. When it comes to driving traffic to your business, think about what memories you’re there to create, not necessarily what cuisine or food you offer.

Consider these four different use cases for going out to eat:

  • Grabbing food in between meetings or as a quick break from work
  • Treating yourself to a favorite food while enjoying leisure time
  • Feeding a family in between soccer practice, flute lessons, or back and forth from school
  • Celebrations, special occasions, or trying to impress a first date

As individuals, we experience these different phases at different parts of our lives. Some of these may even occur on the same day or week! Figure out why people come to your restaurant over another, and what experiences you can create that speak to that “why.” It’s up to you to create the moments that matter, since that’s what will keep people coming back.

Download our free ebook to learn more.

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