Hospitality Surprise Predictions for 2019

In researching what might be restaurant “trendy” for 2019, I’ve taken research from several sources and have developed this list of hospitality predictions for this year and found much of it surprising.  But a nice surprise!

  • Levatine Cuisine – growing interest in Israeli cuisine has led to increased flavor innovations in surround countries.  Specialties from Lebanon, Syria and Turkey are finding momentum in trendy independent restaurants.  Sauces such as s’chug, pomegranate molasses, toum, labneh and tahini are finding new and innovative applications, in addition to ingredients such as urfa, lavash and even schmaltz.  My thinking is that once exploration throughout the Levantine matures it may move by way of Turkey as a bridge to the Balkans.
  • Natural Enhancements – clearly functional foods are the “it” health trend today.  The first wave of the trend is in full swing:  restaurant operators are promoting natural remedies such as turmeric as ingredients that fix a lack of something in the body.  It seems that the new wave this year of be a function trend: natural enhancements, meaning ingredients that enhance something in the body, even facets that don’t necessarily need fixing, such as brain function, beauty and mental health.  My research shows that you can expect to see more innovative uses of ingredients such as collagen for beauty, cannabis for relaxation and karkade for stress relief, with restaurant operators calling out these specific benefits directly.
  • All About the Senses – I’ve watched social media like Instagram and other photo-sharing apps revolutionize the food industry.  Restaurants have even created food and beverages with social media in mind.  The latest is the Instragram stories, Facebook Like and YouTube that have extended the trend beyond what works in a single snapshot to what plays well through video.  Audio enhancements such as popping candies or items that move or alter in time such as color-changing cocktails, glitter beer and bonito-topped foods wow restaurant diners, especially young ones.  Because social media is evolving so quickly, expect menu trends to adapt in funky ways.
  • Off Premise Dining – It’s been amazing to realize his truly restaurant patrons more and more want in-home service.  They want the good food from restaurants but the convenience of coming home from work and not leaving the house again.  Off-premise dining is booming, and third-party food delivery companies are stepping up to feed an on-demand culture.  But between top players such as Grubhub and Uber Eats, and startup companies eager to get into the game, the third-party field is already crowded and companies are hustling to differentiate.  Subscription models that eliminate per-delivery fees in favor of a flat-rate subscription will emerge to present a clearer value proposition for restaurant customers. For third-party delivery services on pace to win the “last mile” with customers, subscription programs may be the next incentive to provide a true competitive edge.
  • Meat-free to the extreme – Plant based dining now means more than just swapping meats for veggies; it represents a strategy that includes zero-waste policies and a wider focus on sustainability.  Restaurant companies are banning plastic straws in an eco-friendly push to eliminate waste and pollution, and restaurant operators are making compostable, plant-based food packaging a priority. What’s next?  A full ban on meat?  We’re already seeing some employers adopt bans of meat consumption on-site and incentivize employees not to more meat then they dine out.  Do we always have to go to the extreme?  Remember the super sized slurpees in NY?
  • Tech replace experience – technology amenities, from drone delivery to app-based checkout services, are redefining convenience and putting “frictionless” food service front and center.  The game-changing rollout of Amazon Go into new markets is exposing more consumes to next-generation grand-and-go.  But if the future is indeed frictionless, what lasting impact will it have on customer experience and person-to-person interaction?  Are brands poised to suffer in an environment where staff may no longer be the communicator of their identities?  Restaurant companies committed to both tech-enabled convenience and the personal touch will be working to strike a balance between the two.
  • More and More transparency – in years past transparency was a product story around sourcing, food origins, growing and processing methods.  Now we have calorie transparency, lite-fare menus, gluten free menus, and some even have menus which include Weight Watcher points.  It seems the trend is for even more transparency (is nothing sacred?) such as full transparency on pricing by revealing true net costs and unbundled costs; corporate performance, by emphasizing fair trade, diversity, living wages and executive compensation; and the planet, by publicizing their real environmental impact, conservation initiatives and progressive stands on animal welfare.

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