A menu that stays exactly the same year after year is a menu that’s likely to become forgettable. After all, when they say that change is the only thing permanent in this world, I’m pretty sure they meant food as well.
The hard truth is that in the world of food, the expectations of consumers are as exciting and as dynamic as a fiesta taco salad. If you want to stay on top of your game, it’s imperative that you understand what’s shaping and shaking consumer behavior these days.
These are the Top 10 trends you should be paying attention to this 2016, as released by Technomic:
1. The rise of Sriracha
In the last 2 years, the number of times that sriracha has appeared in restaurant menus grew by 72%. This hot & spicy sauce is driving consumers wild, but this also means that the next sriracha is just around the corner. Other ethnic condiments that could produce the same interest on consumers include North African harissa, dukka, and sumac, ghost pepper from India, Korean gochujang, and sambal from Southeast Asia.
2. Street Food Frenzy
What’s traditionally known as ‘peasant fare’ or street foods such as sausages and meatballs have made their way to restaurant dishes, but with a special twist. From lamb meatballs to turkey sausages, chefs are finding a way to innovate the familiar. This trend is the reason why you will be seeing more of the fancy haute toast, and ethnic dumplings such as Bao buns and Pierogi.
3. Conscientious Food
To save on costs and be kinder to the environment, recycling has found its way to food as well. From vegetable roots and stalks to organ meats and “trash” fish species (e.g. Mackerel, Atlantic Pollock, Redfish), you’ll find items in menus that you never thought you would. Nothing goes to waste, because chefs are becoming more and more creative, such as using pulp to make veggie burger patties.
4. Smokey, Fiery Flavor Profiles
Is something burning? Well you better check again, because you’ll see smoke and fire more and more this year. From roasted vegetables that are slightly charred to desserts that have burnt-sugar as toppings, you can set your menu on fire. Even cocktails are turning up the heat, with smoky syrups, smoked salt, and smoked ice.
5. Bubbly Anyone?
When it comes to beverages, you can’t go wrong with effervescence. Whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic, there is an increasing demand for ‘bubbly’ drinks and you should pay attention. When you think of your menu therefore, make sure that it has hard sodas and sparkling teas, campari-and-soda aperitifs, as well as Champagnes and Proseccos.
6. Just say No to GMO!
7 out of 10 consumers are more likely to purchase something that has been declared GMO-free, and there is an increasing demand for transparency not just in food packaging but also on menus. Genetically modified organisms are becoming a big no-no for consumers, and this is beginning to affect their decisions on what to purchase and where to dine.
7. Site Your Sources
Supply chain management is something that you need to pay extra attention to this year, because consumer demands are changing. Aside from demanding that their food is fresh and free of anything artificial, it should also be safe, traceable to a local supplier, and humanely sourced. This is true not just for restaurants but for grocery stores and other distributors that are part of the food supply chain.
8. Reinventing Fast Food
There’s a revolution happening in the quick service industry, and this is stemming from the fact that consumers simply expect “better” fast food. From the ability to customize and build their own menu to the possibility of an all-day breakfast, consumers are simply demanding fresher and more innovative products. Leading the pack are several QSR Plus Brands (e.g. El Pollo Loco, In-N-Out, Culver’s, Chick-fil-A) that are upscaling the quick-service restaurant experience.
9. Worker Pay
83% of consumers profess their support for an increase in minimum wage. But even if pressure groups have succeeded in New York, where the wage for fast food workers is already up to $15/hour, 84% of food service operators agree that rising labor costs will hurt business.
To deal with this reality, restaurants could invest in more technology to lessen the need for labor, or invest in training to be able to do more with a few.
10. The Year of the Delivery
Technology is revolutionizing the way people dine, because the proliferation of mobile apps and online ordering is making it so easy to eat restaurant-quality food from the comfort of the home. Uber and Amazon are expanding their businesses to food deliveries, and app-only services like Sprig, Munchery, and Spoonrocket are now delivering food directly from a commissary. The quality is just like that of a restaurant’s, so consumers can really just forget brick-and-mortar altogether.