Now that 2016 is here, it’s time to reflect on the important trends in the food and restaurant industry that occurred in the previous year. Which ones will continue to be popular this year, which ones will become acknowledged classics, and which trends will disappear? As always, only time will tell. But here’s a list of the top trends in 2015:
- All-day breakfast. It was a big deal when McDonald’s finally relented to public clamor and launched the availability of its breakfast meals for the whole day. The all-day breakfast isn’t new, since for years now Jack in the Box and Sonic Drive-In have made their breakfast fare available all day and night. But this is McDonald’s, and its influence is much more considerable.
The truth of the matter is that over the last decade traditional meal periods have become less clearly defined. Late shifts at work along with weekend partying have resulted in wakeup times much closer to noon than to sunrise. And some breakfast food items such as bacon and eggs have fans who have no problems eating these dishes for dinner.
With McDonald’s finally succumbing to the all-day breakfast trend, other restaurants are bound to follow. It makes sense, because customer satisfaction is very high while the cost of the breakfast food is typically low.
- The decline of tipping. The need to tip has always been a rather contentious topic in dining circles, and that’s truer now with some servers clamoring for higher wages. The unwritten rules of tipping has led to a lot of issues regarding etiquette and proper behavior of both server and diner, but now those days may soon disappear.
The big news on this front is the announcement of the Union Square Hospitality Group in New York that tipping will be scrapped in their dining establishments. Instead, the restaurants run by Danny Meyer will just raise menu prices to compensate for the lost tips for the servers.
Everyone essentially pays the same tips regardless of how hood the service is or how generous the customer is. Other chefs, like Tom Colicchio, will do the same thing.
The debate over tipping has some people saying that the tips have allowed restaurant management to underpay their workers. On the other hand, those who favor the practice say that without the incentive of a good tip, the quality of the wait staff service may decline. This coming 2016 will see whether the new no-tipping rule is sustainable.
- Rice bowls. In some parts of Asia, people eat rice every day—like bread. But now rice is becoming more popular around the world. It is the fastest growing food staple in Africa, and one of the fastest in Latin America. It is also fast becoming popular among Americans, especially when it is served in bowls.
According to some experts, the use of bowls is seen as more interesting than using plain plates. In addition, it also seems to limit how much food a person can eat in a single sitting, which is important for many people on a diet.
In most cases, the bowl contains a mound of rice, and on top of that there are the various food ingredients and preparations. It offers many different flavors in a single package, and that goes well with American preferences.
- Special chef services. It used to be that to enjoy the privilege of a chef’s skills, you’ll need to secure a reservation at a snobby restaurant, and that can take a while. And once you do get in, you’ll have to dress in your best, and you’ll have to pay a substantial amount of money. But that’s no longer the case all the time in 2015.
Now chefs are delivering their delicacies directly to the homes of their customers. Previously, the usual food delivery services touted the convenience they offer. But now, chefs are also promising excellent quality food items as well.
Other chefs are also getting in to the quick-service outlets, which is a niche in the food industry that has long been dominated by fast food brands. But now chefs are starting their own franchise operations involving similar services, except that their food is obviously much better than what you can get at the local McDonald’s.
The shift has its roots back in 1991, with the Wolfgang Puck Express. Then Tom Colicchio, Danny Meyer, and Bobby Flay started their own quick0service restaurants in multiple locations in the early 2000s. By 2015, many more chefs have joined in the trend.
Chefs have realized that selling affordable quality meals to thousands of people bring in more profits than selling expensive meals to just a handful of patrons. And diners have now become more discerning, so they’re patronizing these new joints in lieu of the usual fast food fare.
Will these new trends still endure in the coming year? We will find out!