Rolling out “on-trend” initiatives can have a profound impact on your restaurant, from enhancing brand image and guest satisfaction to increasing efficiency and profitability. Identifying and setting those trends before your competition gives your restaurant a distinct competitive advantage. In the fast-paced, ever-evolving restaurant environment, it’s easy to waste time chasing the wrong trend, or to fall so far behind that you lose relevance. From motherless meat and CBD-infused foods to robots and next-gen fast casual, we’ve put six of Baum + Whiteman’s 2019 F&B trends on trial to sift through what’s worth adopting so you don’t have to.
#1 Next-Gen Fast-Casual
Verdict: major trend
If a QSR (quick-service restaurant) and an upscale restaurant had a love child, you’d end up with the latest and greatest segment to arrive on the scene: next-gen fast-casual. Ripened by continued labor cost increases and an oversaturated fast-casual market, this new segment is undoubtedly the next logical step in restaurant evolution and one you may want to consider if you’re opening or converting a restaurant. Smaller portions of mouth-watering, profit-driving, crafted-at-the-counter dishes render a better value than an upscale restaurant while offering a foodie experience much more desirable than its Chipotle-esque QSR cousin. Lower labor? Check. Value and intent-to-return? Check. On-trend foodie hangout? Check! One example of a next-gen fast-casual restaurant is BurgerFi, as reported by Nation’s Restaurant News.
#2 “Motherless” Meat
Verdict: not yet
Move over farm-to-table, here comes petri dish-to-plate! We agree it doesn’t sound too appetizing, but the “grown in a lab” meat may just pack enough shock and awe to stimulate some business. One company pioneering the charge is Memphis Meats out of San Francisco, Calif. The concept is fascinating: instead of harvesting real animals, “motherless meat” is grown from extracting and reproducing protein cells into a hunk of edible meat that any carnivore would love to sink their teeth into. Or would they? Calling this science project “meat” has already been outlawed in Missouri, and no telling what will happen elsewhere. The FDA and USDA are currently in talks to determine this mystery protein’s fate. There may be something here, but it’s too early to tell.
#3 Sour Sells
Verdict: major trend
From Korean BBQ sauté sauces to French gastriques, sour is making a comeback in a big way, driven by our ever-increasing fascination with fatty, braised and offal items such as pork belly, short ribs and foie gras. Sour and acidic foods such as fruit, vinaigrettes and pickled items are classic and complementary flavors that pair with fatty proteins and fried items. As one of the five taste profiles (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami), sour should absolutely be a weapon in your arsenal to transcend the blandest of dishes to a taste buds-blown culinary masterpiece. Be sure to have a dynamic combination of the five taste profiles across your menu. Flavor & the Menu has some great recommendations on how to incorporate sour ingredients into your menu.
#4 To CBD, or not to CBD?
Verdict: that is the question
CBD, or Cannabidiol, is one of several hundred compounds in the marijuana plant that is becoming rapidly popular for its alleged health benefits and natural, pain-relieving characteristics. Unlike THC, CBD does not get you high. From CBD-infused non-alcohol beverages to chef-inspired CBD tasting dinners, the controversy is creating hype. Problem is, the stigma is still all too real. We believe as people become more aware of what CBD is, it’ll become the next truffle oil. What do you think? For a list of some great CBD-infused cocktails, visit Well & Good.
#5 Robots on the Rise
Verdict: not anytime soon
With ever-increasing labor costs that are only expected to get worse, robots have been the fad talk of the restaurant-tech world. But until these burger-flipping, coffee-bean slinging computers on wheels are more affordable, you’ll continue to see fellow humans fighting the good fight in the restaurant trenches. Exhilarating thought: what would this do for your worker’s comp premiums?! Just ask the “Spyce Boys” over at Spyce, New York City. A group of MIT grads teamed up with chef-legend and Culinary Director Daniel Boulud, and surely know a thing or two about AI in restaurants.
#6 Food from the “Stans”
Verdict: hard pass
Indigenous foods from places like Kazakhstan, Tajikstan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan have been around for centuries but still haven’t made their way into the prominent mainstream spotlight. This cuisine is laden with foods high on the glycemic index (i.e. rice, pastries, dumplings, etc.) and unrelatable flavor combos, and we believe you can skip over this predicted trend in your next menu ideation session.