There are few things that unite people in the way that food does. From relationships to art to science, food is at the intersection of the most influential components in our world. As we forge ahead into 2019, some of the major ways that food is prepared and consumed are evolving, altering the restaurant scene as we know it. While we don’t have a crystal ball, a few of these movements are quickly rising in popularity – here’s a breakdown of the 5 trends that we believe are shaping the restaurant industry this year.
1. More Bowls
Thousands of restaurants have begun to capitalize on the food bowl craze, creating options for every meal of the day in cuisines from around the world. Due to their tasty, healthy, and quick to prepare nature, food bowls have rapidly developed a large fanbase. Açai, a Brazilian fruit with a rich, sweet flavor, has been a driving force behind the sudden rise of food bowls. Often topped with berries, seeds, and nuts, nearly every smoothie or juice shop now sells a variation of their own Açai bowl and the photogenic meals can be seen all over social media, with #acaibowl garnishing over 1 million posts on Instagram alone. Similarly, Hawaiian poke bowls have also seen a recent spike in popularity. A combination of rice, raw fish, vegetables, and sauces, they’ve been compared to deconstructed sushi rolls and are unlike anything else on the market. Popular chains like Chipotle and Freshii are even boasting bowls on their menu, confirming the trend’s demand across the country.
2. Free-From Options
In the past, customers would inquire about specific ingredients because of personal allergies or diet constraints. Today, more and more individuals are becoming health-conscious, viewing foods free from gluten, dairy, or meat as healthier alternatives to classic menu items and causing restaurants to change their offerings accordingly. Now, many have their menus labeled to highlight gluten-free, dairy-free, or vegan options, while some even have entire separate menus that don’t include specific ingredients. Despite representing only a small portion of the health and wellness market, these options, commonly referred to as free-from foods, were valued at $33 billion globally, with that figure only expected to grow. Even fast food giant Burger King has jumped on the trend, unveiling an “Impossible” Whopper that replaces their typical beef patty with one comprised of soy protein, potato protein, coconut oil, sunflower oil, and heme. While the sandwich is only available at limited locations, it will soon be rolling out nationally, indicative of the path that free-from foods are taking as a whole.
3. Artisan Cuisine
In the same vein, regardless of dietary preferences, consumers are demanding to know more about their food. Care, expertise, and quality of ingredients are top of mind for health-conscious guests, prompting concepts like “farm to table” to take off. Products featuring artisanal elements, such as being locally-sourced, handmade, or created in-house, are becoming stand-out successes for many restaurateurs – almost 70% of surveyed consumers reported that they’re more likely to eat at a restaurant offering locally-sourced food. A prime example of the interest in this market is the recent surge in demand for craft beer and drinks. Beer conglomerate Anheuser-Busch has established partnerships with a plethora of smaller craft beer companies, launching an entire business unit to exclusively manage premium craft acquisitions. Since 2011, craft beer sales in the United States have increased by 172% with more than 7,000 craft breweries operating nationwide. The interest in artisan cuisine spans further than just alcohol though, with many Americans opting for specialty, niche products over large, iconic brands. Over the past five years alone, the artisanal foods and beverages sector has experienced a 28% global annual growth rate, indicating a bright future for the cuisine.
4. Robots in Food Service
If you enjoy dining out but dread the human interaction that comes with it, then you’ll be excited to see the uptick in restaurants moving towards employee-less models. While technology and automation have been prevalent in the industry for years, today, robots are beginning to take the place of workers in some eateries. Creator, a start-up burger joint in San Francisco, features a fully automated kitchen. Customized to order, the bot grounds a mix of chuck and brisket; slices and toasts freshly baked brioche buns; and dispenses sauces, onions and cheese to craft the perfect slider. While not quite as complicated as Creator, automated coffee shops are also beginning to pop-up across the country. Kiosks like Café X and Briggo are sweeping campuses, factories, and airports, serving high-end coffee to countless customers a day.
Ultimately while automation can be a valuable tool to quickly and accurately service numerous customers, it’s doubtful that humans will be taken out of the equation any time soon. Most restaurant owners feel that hospitality is a key component to success, meaning that personalization is necessary for a quality experience.
5. Fast Casual Dining
Since debuting in 1999, fast casual dining has steadily become more and more commonplace. The revolutionary blend of fast food and a relaxed dining experience has struck a chord with millions of Americans, growing 550% over the years, and was notably the only segment of the industry that continued to flourish during the recession. A variety of factors led to this boom, particularly the significant cost savings for restaurateurs that no longer need to include wait-staff or hosts on their payroll. The only front of house personnel necessary in fast casual eateries are cashiers and food runners, which in some cases are even optional if customers get their meals directly at the counter.
In 2019, fast casual dining will continue to excel in the market, now with an increased focus on the quality of their food. Restaurants like Panera and Starbucks are joining the health movement, purchasing their ingredients from trusted farms and moving away from single use disposables. Following the trend of artisan cuisine, fast casual restaurants are also becoming more transparent with their customers by sharing information, including where their food is sourced from, calorie counts, and allergen warnings.
At the end of the day, food remains one of the most essential parts of our lives. Trends will continue to shape the restaurant industry, but whether your meal is served in a bowl or without gluten, there’s nothing quite like a quality dining experience with those that you love. Here at The Party Staff, we’re lucky enough to provide our guests with those memories each and every day. From providing cafeteria workers to hosting in-home parties to serving major cultural events, our team of experienced hospitality professionals is equipped to make your experience unforgettable.
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