The Restaurant Group Blog

Food Trends 2017: What Stuck and What Didn’t

Food Trends 2017

Food Trends 2017

Every December, restaurant owners and goers alike wait to see what trends are predicted for the coming year. 2017 is almost over…so what stuck and what didn’t?

Winners

  • Breakfast All Day 

    – Breakfast has always been popular, but it wasn’t until McDonald’s finally succumbed to offering a breakfast menu all day that breakfast could no longer be ignored as a growing trend. From ice cream made of cereal milk and full bars, like Nighthawk Bar in Venice, CA, offering breakfast food late into the night, breakfast has never been hotter.

  • Queso

    – No longer just a Super Bowl staple, queso is breaking out of the football fan’s home kitchen and into quick service restaurants. Chipotle, desperate for a turn around in business, has added a queso & chips option to the menu to accompany its quac and salsa. Wendy’s and TGI Friday’s have both added queso-topped french fries to their menus, showing that this trend isn’t just for tortilla chips anymore.

  • Goth-Colored Food

    – While squid ink has long been used to make black pasta, black dyed foods have been showing up everywhere, from cupcakes to hamburger buns. The most popular twist on this dark 2017 trend is actually charcoal. Activated charcoal was marketed as a detox material and, as a result, it’s shown up in everything from lemonade to ice cream to lattes. Think of it as the response to this year’s other hot color trend: “unicorn”, or rainbow, food.

Losers

  • African Cuisine

    – African food was supposedly going to hit it big in 2017 but seems to have stalled out, with Filipino and other southeast Asian flavors becoming more popular in restaurant openings. Here’s hoping next year will see Africa’s rich history and myriad of flavors explode on the scene.

  • Fake Meat

    – In 2017, multiple companies brought us veggie burgers that “bleed” as if they were made of real beef and it was met with mixed reactions.  Recently, however, the FDA denied approving its ingredients and so this fake-beef burger is now, ironically, DOA.

  • Hopping on the Bandwagon – Authenticity is no longer a request in the restaurant world, it is a demand.  While demand for ethnic cuisines has never been higher, some of 2017’s biggest restaurant scandals have been in regard to restaurants and brands appropriating cultural flavors and techniques without a single chef or adviser assisting in the process. From non-Hispanic restaurateurs allegedly “stealing” tortilla techniques to France-based Yoplait attempting to enter the Greek yogurt market, the biggest lesson of 2017 may simply be to remain true to yourself.

 

For more information on the restaurant industry and consulting services contact TRG. We will also be releasing the upcoming Food Trends for 2018 in December.

Tips on Starting a New Restaurant

Starting a new restaurant

Starting a new restaurant

Starting any kind of business can be challenging and, in many cases, outright daunting. Restaurants are no exception. Here’s an idea of what the process will entail.

Concept 

The first step in starting a new restaurant is developing a concept, which lays the groundwork for all that follows. You then need to design a plan of action. We at TRG can help you through our five-stage process:

  • Alignment — You’ll present to us your vision, as well as ideas for things like menu design, location and budget.
  • Research — We’ll compile a strategic list based on potential competition in your target market area.
  • Analysis — We’ll do a comparative analysis, pitting your restaurant against the competition.
  • Plan of Action — During a brainstorm session, we’ll create a plan of action that will include all aspects of your operation, including kitchen and bar design, menu, brand value, ideal location, and other requirements.
  • Reporting — We’ll help your restaurant achieve a smooth implementation and launch.

Brand

Here at TRG, we realize that brand is everything. It’s through branding that you convey your restaurant’s personality, paving the way for brand loyalty. We can help develop your brand and thereby create a lasting impression on your customers. TRG can provide services in such areas as graphic design and brand development.

Kitchen and Bar Design

A great kitchen design is essential for every restaurant, as it can help guarantee repeat business. Our consultants have real world experience and the know-how to help you design your kitchen and bar so you can generate repeat business. We can help you pick the perfect restaurant kitchen and bar design that both helps generate profit and reflects your brand and values. Don’t worry — we’ll guide you every step of the way.

Business Plan

A business plan is necessary to obtain funding for your operation. At TRG, we can help you craft a 20-30 pages business plan that we think could attract potential investors. Each plan, which we would deliver in both printed and digital formats, would include:

  • A mission statement.
  • A Business and Marketing Overview.
  • One- and Five-Year Sales and Profit Projections.
  • A Rough Draft of the Menu and more.

We’ll also provide you with a restaurant strategy plan, which will include 400 issues restaurant owners must address when they’re opening their business.

Feasibility Study

The next step would be a feasibility study to ensure that your concept aligns with your goal of maximum profitability. The study would include data and recommendations for such crucial elements as: local restaurant marketing potential, traffic count, possible location problems and solutions, demographics and identification of the target area, staffing potential, advertising options, direct and indirect competition, photos of the target trade area, and issues involving ingress and egress.

We can help you transform your restaurant idea into reality. For more information, please contact us.

Is Your Menu Intimidating? TRG Menu Development Can Help

TRG Menu Development

Menu Development

 

Have you ever sat down at a restaurant and opened up the menu only to find that your choices seem endless? Having too many options is often overwhelming. Even the most experienced Chef cannot possibly be well versed in all areas. The odds that your kitchen staff can serve world-class Sushi and BBQ up some killer ribs are slim, and your guests know this. A menu with too many items sends the message to your patrons that your establishment doesn’t excel in any one item, rather, it offers an array of mediocre items.

People like options and you should certainly give them some. Try limiting your menu to just a handful of items that your restaurant can knock out of the park. Doing this has several advantages that might surprise you. It cuts inventory costs and allows reallocation of those funds towards higher grade ingredients, thus increasing the overall quality of your product. Offering less menu choices also creates less memorization for your wait staff; decreasing the odds of mistakes which results in happy customers. Perhaps the most positive change is that this will brand your restaurant. You will now be forever known for the amazing niche items prepared unique to your restaurant. This will attract the people whom are truly interested in what you have to offer, and likely result in a positive reputation amongst your community. Another positive is that you can bump of the price of your dishes with confidence, generating more profit. Remember this: less is more.

The menu is the first encounter a guest has with a restaurant. Contact TRG Restaurant Consulting, to learn more about our menu development services and how we can help to ensure that all the dishes on your menu not only stand out for their own merits, but also work together to form a cohesive whole.

 

Today’s Restaurant Consumer Demands

Is Your Menu Meeting Today’s Restaurant Consumer Demands of Online Convenience, Healthy Options, and Price?

Restaurant Consumer Demands

As you analyze your business and forecast of the trends for the remainder of 2017, there are several questions that you may be asking yourself. As restaurants have a greater and greater online presence with delivery services and online ordering as well as increased concern about healthy diets and where our food comes from, knowing what market factors to focus on and what trends in your customers’ behavior to focus on can be a tricky matter. One key question is, is your menu meeting today’s consumer demand?

Some of the most important factors according to forecasted 2017 trends include robotization, the growing focus on whole food ingredients, and a balance between convenience, novelty, and price.

Technology 

Customers are looking for convenience. Increasingly,  this is taking the form of app and online menus, being able to order ahead while still customizing orders, and even delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash. Additionally, consumers frequently turn to review sites and restaurant websites to decide which restaurant to visit. It is critical to establish an online presence. At a minimum, you need a site that is mobile-friendly, easy to follow, and functional. However, you will also want to ensure that your business has online reviews, and, if it’s in your business model, is accessible to customers through those online delivery services.

Health

Whether it’s a fad,  a temporary trend, or a long-term move towards whole foods, fresh ingredients, and healthy options, most consumers are increasingly educating themselves about nutritious options, healthy alternatives, and organic or non-GMO ingredients. This can impact your food costs as the healthiest, freshest ingredients are often the most expensive. If you focus on a market that cares about these healthier options, knowing how to plan based on an operational analysis is critical to reducing food waste and additional expenses.

Price

Being concerned about the bill is not a new trend for 2017. But increased uncertainty has led to many middle- and lower-class customers thinking about cheaper alternatives and cooking at home when possible. Though upper-middle class and upper-class patrons are not expected to be as affected, be sure to keep in mind how price increases are noticeable and can drastically impact consumer behavior. Depending on your business model, cultivating alternatives and additional options can help keep the menu price the same while giving your customer the convenient options and customizations they crave in order to make sure your business continues to profit and grow.

The restaurant business is constantly changing and our consultants at TRG can help you react to the shifting preferences and consumer trends throughout the rest of 2017 and beyond. Please contact us at TRG Restaurant Consulting  if you’d like to learn more about how the restaurant business as a whole is evolving and what we can do to work together and make your restaurant thrive.

 

Restaurant Consumer Trends 2017 Mid Year Review

Restaurant Consumer Trends 2017 Mid Year Review

Restaurant Consumer Trends 2017

Now that we’re halfway done with 2017, it’s time to take a look both backward and forward at trends dominating the restaurant industry. Here’s what we’ve noticed is both hot and not in 2017:

Comfort food revival is more important than ever. Consumers are highly interested in modern takes on classic fare. More people are getting back to the “roots” of traditional-style foods, but this doesn’t mean they want Mom’s boring old meatloaf! Farm-to-table is also playing heavily into the equation as today’s consumer is more conscious about their food sources than ever before.

The attention span of your customers is getting shorter than ever. All restaurants want to reach out to their consumers, but your time may be counted in milliseconds rather than actual seconds these days. Rather than relying on email marketing, which is likely to be sent to a spam folder, consider switching customer engagement to text-based communication.

Paying attention to calorie counts is big. More customers than ever are paying attention to calorie counts, and since May 2017 there have been rules requiring that restaurants disclose these counts. Customers are paying attention to these and many do make purchasing decisions based upon estimated caloric daily intake. So make sure that you tell the chefs to not go heavy on the oil!

Healthy kid’s menus. Along with healthier eating for Mom and Dad, healthier eating for Junior is in as well. You’re finding this evidenced in everything from apple slices instead of fries and oranges on the kids’ dessert menu. Just like parents are paying attention to their waistlines, they’re also keeping an eye on their kids’.

Keeping on top of restaurant consumer trends like these is vital to our industry. We like to stay on top of it all – and so should you!

Food Trends 2017: A Health-Conscious Perspective

Food Trends

Many of the food trends anticipated in the near future will cater to individuals who have adopted a health-conscious lifestyle, and will span the gamut from good versus bad fats to seaweed and fermented foods.

 

Food Trends

Good Versus Bad Fats

Whereas low-carb, Mediterranean and paleo diets became popular in 2016, many experts this year expect to see a greater emphasis on foods high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as avocado, fish and nuts.

 

Food Trends

Plant Proteins

Plant foods, such as high-fat avocados, will soon constitute another major food trend. They have increasingly grown in popularity, as dietitians have long touted the heart-healthy benefits of a vegetarian diet.

 

Food Trends

Seaweed

A key ingredient in Asian food for the past thousand years, seaweed is low in fat and calories, and loaded in nutrients like Vitamins A, B and C, iron, fiber, zinc and magnesium. While seaweed chips have seen a recent surge in popularity, culinary experts expect the seaweed plant to receive wider acclaim in the coming months.

 

Food Trends

Fermented Foods

Holistic nutritionist Kelly Boaz calls fermented foods one of the top food trends of 2017. Fermented foods have been exposed to certain bacteria and yeasts. This process of fermentation, which can alter the food’s taste, can make the food more conducive to digestion. Boaz says it may among other things help improve mental health, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and help diminish the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

 

Food Trends

Manufacturers Now Make Meatless Burgers Taste Like the Real Thing

That’s right. In fact, soy and veggie burgers have now become indistinguishable from hamburgers in both taste and texture. The only real difference, aside from their substance, is their nutritional value.

 

Food Trends

Sorghum

In addition, sorghum will likely gain traction in the health food market soon. Rich in fiber and protein, sorghum is present in cereals and chips, and will appear later this year in such foods as protein bars and crackers.

For more information on including health-conscious food in your menu, please contact us.

Restaurant Trends 2017

2017 Restaurant Trends

The culinary scene in 2016 was all about matcha, food trucks, and farm-to-table. As the year comes to a close, it’s time to look forward to what your clientele will be asking for in 2017 restaurant trends.

 

2017 Restaurant Trends

Smarter Restaurants

From guest-facing digital ordering systems to takeout platforms catering to busy individuals, many modern restaurants are turning to technology to streamline the guest’s experience. While quick-serve concepts are typically the first to adopt new technology, high-end restaurants are also incorporating technical features to their dining rooms such as tablets and smart watches to keep the restaurant staff informed and operating in real time.

In 2017 expect more than just sandwich shops to utilize digitized custom ordering methods. The trend has already begun to expand to sushi restaurants and other popular lunch and after work venues.

 

2017 Restaurant Trends

Fresher, greener, cleaner ingredients

So many consumers today are concerned with clean eating, the sourcing of ingredients, and impact of their food choices. When selecting a lunch spot or where to place a dinner reservation, guests are more apt to choose an establishment with a clear commitment to the environment or new clean eating trends.

The “better burger” movement is one of the more prominent examples of clean eating coming to the forefront of American dining. From BurgerFi to Elevation Burger, these businesses are placing the importance of great ingredients and thoughtful preparation far ahead of heavy branding and low price points.

For those who are turning away from meat consumption, there are countless new concepts focusing on vegan and vegetarian cuisine. Even fresh juice bars are beginning to replace truck stop style soda fountains in high income areas.

The new year will likely usher in more concepts focusing on the fresher the better with their ingredients and menu planning.

 

2017 Restaurant Trends

Embodying that Homemade Feeling

Whether high end or fast-casual, so many new restaurants are embracing nostalgic and inviting atmospheres. Fine dining restaurants have always been exclusive, but many dining rooms are beginning to feel like an extension of someone’s living room rather than a sea of identical two tops covered in white tablecloths.

Staplehouse, a restaurant in Atlanta has gone as far as creating a unique entrance through a residential garage door in order to make guests feel as though they’re coming over to a friend’s house.

This intimate back to basics of hospitality is not limited to interior design, many kitchens are returning to basic cooking techniques and heirloom recipes to create a transportive and comforting dining experience.

 

2017 Restaurant Trends

Authentic, not brand-centric

It seems gone are the days of reigning restaurant chains complete with souvenir barware and menus designed to follow some sort of theme. Many of the newest and most successful restaurants pride themselves on their simple straight-forward concepts and the transparency of their menus. New restaurateurs and chefs are embracing the idea of doing one thing and doing it better than anyone else.

Ethnic cuisine has been on the rise especially in the last few years as the industry embraces the different backgrounds that make up today’s typical consumer. Coming with this trend to explore ethnic cuisines are millennials captivated by social media and the search for authentic ethnic cooking. With a largely global economy and a well traveled customer base, restaurants offering globally inspired foods need to claim their authenticity and larger established brands touting culturally inspired fare will need to face the music and convince restaurant goers that their offerings are as good if not better than the authentic cooking of a mom and pop startup.

Other ways restaurants are circumnavigating the modern consumers’ distrust of large brand names: combining forces with popular retailers, hotels, and even automotive brands. In 2017 expect to see more established food or restaurant brands partnering with high end retailers to present innovative mixed use retail and foodservice concepts.

 

2017 Restaurant Trends

Eastern Flavor Invasion

The Asian tigers have influenced the consumer economy in more than just apparel, electronics, and cars. These strong economic players and their accompanying dining preferences are now beginning to impact the American restaurant industry. Their numbers are growing each day from Asian inspired fast-casual concepts to elevating Chinese, Thai, Indian, and Japanese cuisine to a starring role in high end dining rooms breaking from their former home in your takeout menu drawer.

In 2017 prepare to see more Asian as well as African flavors being incorporated into menus, grab and go snacks, and even cocktail programs.

Beverage Trends 2017: Coffee

Beverage Trends – Coffee

Beverage Trends Coffee

Are You Offering Fresh Coffee?

Is your drink menu full of only standard options and written in at the bottom of your menu corner? If so, you may want to consider adding in coffee, or a few coffee options, to join the growing market of restaurants that feature coffee as an all-day option and has a growing customer base of people stopping in to get a drink and a snack or to do some work at your tables.

A sort of Starbucks phenomenon is taking place in a wide variety of restaurants. Consumers aren’t always looking for a full sit-down meal or even a meal through the drive-thru window. A lot of the time, especially if your restaurant offers free Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi with purchase, what customers really want as a place to sit down with or swing by for a hot coffee, a cold coffee, or any sort of the numerous customizable drinks that have become increasingly popular. While coffee is still predominantly associated with breakfast and business offices, it is increasingly a universal drink  that can draw in a crowd — especially if you offer novelty, convenience, or both. Customers are looking for hot coffee for their commute, a cold drink for the afternoon, or sometimes even a late-night pick-me-up for when office hours or studying stretch out. Being the local restaurant or the reliable franchise that offers what your customers are looking for consistently can go a long way to not only retaining customer loyalty but bringing in customers looking for a snack or a quick meal, too.

It used to be that drinks accompany a meal. But with new trends, new consumer behavior, and increasing numbers of people working on the go, it’s turning out that everything else may be accompanying the drink. If you are looking to expand or want to further capitalize on this market of busy coffee drinkers, our consultants at TRG can help you devise new business strategies, start an operational analysis, and see where your business can grow now and in the future. Please contact us at TRG Restaurant Consulting if you have any questions or want to talk to a consultant.

Today’s Restaurant Industry

Today’s Restaurant Industry

Ingredient, design, and culinary trends are not new to the restaurant industry, but with today’s rapidly evolving tastes and diners who are quick to share their experiences, chefs and restaurant owners need to be steadily aware of new trends coming into play.

Here are the current movements shaking up today’s restaurant industry:

 

The Right Angle

Today’s Restaurant Industry

Heads up, way up. When it comes to restaurant decor in 2016, so many designers are taking advantage of vertical space and adding interest with the use of hard 45 degree and 90 degree angles. These lines combined with the softness of wood paneling often made from reclaimed materials not only make a space inviting, but also speaks to a restaurant’s eco-friendly commitment.

Tall spaces are not the only ones getting the natural treatment, many interior designers are also bringing in tropical plants and wallpaper with natural textures or patterns to create a warm atmosphere.

 

Thoughtful Menu Planning & Ingredient Sourcing

Today’s Restaurant Industry

Today we are serving some the best informed diners we have ever served in the restaurant industry. That being said, menu planners cannot simply tout a locally sourced menu and not expect to be held to certain standards of sustainability and support of their local food industry. Likely the hottest topic within the realm of ingredient sourcing is the use of locally raised meat, dairy, seafood, and produce. Some of the most successful restaurants embracing this trend have built extremely strong relationships with local growers, ranchers, and fisherman and are very transparent about the origin of every single item on their menu.

Other ways restaurants are adding interest to their menus without sacrificing local ingredients: housemade ice cream, root-to-stem cooking, artisan butchery, house-made pickles, back-to-basics cooking, and curing meats in-house.

 

The Technology of Convenience

Today’s Restaurant Industry

It may be driven by millennials, but food convenience paired with delivery services such as Grub Hub, Ubereats, and Postmates represents one of the fastest growing areas in the foodservice industry. Many young professionals and working parents are the major supporters of these services because they bring well prepared, often nutritious, and fast meals to their doorstep with just a few quick swipes on their smartphone. Settling for rock hard pizza that takes an hour to arrive or waiting for a table with a gaggle of hungry toddlers just isn’t relevant anymore.

Other players in the food convenience arena include food trucks, dinner-in-a-box subscription services, and affordable chef-driven fast-casual restaurant concepts.

 

Working with Dietary Restrictions

Today’s Restaurant Industry

So many chefs and servers dread the question “What do you have that’s gluten-free?”

While it is true that the public’s concern for dietary restrictions has increased over the years, what is starting to change are restaurants’ approach to gluten free, paleo, vegan, and vegetarian dining. So many establishments are confronting the question head on and designing menus and even entire restaurant concepts that address and embrace these different eating patterns.

Some of the most popular trends from 2016 are: offering selections of raw or uncooked vegetable dishes, replacing pasta and white rice for ancient grains, healthy alternatives for kid’s meals, vegetable-centric menus, and milk substitutes made from cashews, hazelnuts, and oats.

 

Seasoned Seasoning

Today’s Restaurant Industry

Restaurants are big on flavor. With all the dietary restrictions circling around and a large demand for unique flavors, so many chefs are turning to spices for more than just heat. Spices, especially ethnically inspired or craft blended, are an ideal way to incorporate new and bold flavors into a dish without the use of animal fat, or excess salt and sugar. One of the more unique trends of 2016 are restaurants developing their own blend of spices to use in various dishes.

While ethnically derived spice blends are heating up in the kitchens, more and more customers are also asking for condiments that in the past have only been found at grocery stores in neighborhoods like K-town or Little Havana. From hot sauces to savory vinegars, expect to see a more eclectic assortment of condiments available at your table.

 

True Ethnic Cuisine

Today’s Restaurant Industry

Along with the never ending search for new flavors comes the quest for your area’s most authentic (insert country’s name here) cuisine. Today’s diners are very interested in trying authentic cuisines without the need for a passport. This trend can be seen with the fleets of food trucks hitting city streets and also in some of the nicest dining rooms around the country.

Vietnamese cuisine, new-Jewish cuisine, homemade Japanese rice balls, and new interest in African cuisine and ingredients have been some of this year’s most apparent trends in ethnic cooking.

 

Waste Not

Today’s Restaurant Industry

Lastly, it’s hard to talk about food whether it’s in the foodservice industry or home consumption without touching upon the topic of food waste. Not only has it been a big conversation leader in 2016, it has also turned into a big winner for business plans in the restaurant industry. Many restaurants cite their commitment to food waste reduction on their menus and equally as many are partaking in the food donation services that are springing up across the United States.

Other popular steps toward reducing food waste include: seasonal farm-to-table menus, smaller portion sizes at smaller price points, and a commitment to nose-to-tail and root-to-stem cooking.

 

Virtual Restaurants and Delivery Service

Virtual Restaurants and Delivery Services

Virtual Restaurants and Delivery Service

 

It’s six pm on a Tuesday, and after leaving work you’re sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic amid a cacophony of beeping, honking, and expletive-laced language, wondering what to have for dinner. Seven years ago the options would have amounted to cook your own dinner, dine out at a traditional restaurant, or order from the same revolving stack of pizza or chinese food menus. But this is 2016 and the delivery landscape has changed.

These are the days of Grubhub, Foodler, UberEats, Munchery, and more. The technological advancements of the last decade have affected the culinary scene with the same fervor as transportation, finance, and hospitality, resulting in a widened array of dining options for consumer and deepened selection of business ventures for chefs and entrepreneurs.

What makes these dining options and business ventures so unique and attractive? For consumers, who were previously forced to choose quality or convenience, the pros are clear. No longer is the decision to order delivery equanimous with a high-fat, high-sodium often sub-par meal delivered by a pimply high-schooler who hasn’t yet realized the importance of standing up straight or enunciating.

Today’s delivery scene offers a bevy of choices for the modern-day consumer who may prefer a wholesome, chef-prepared meal with fresh produce and locally sourced ingredients.

Business owners, too, cannot deny the appeal of a delivery-only restaurant – they cut down enormously on the initial investment and traditional on-going operating costs. No longer is interior decoration and design a concern. Nor is sourcing glassware, flatware, and plates. No POS system needed. Payroll is limited to kitchen staff, delivery staff, and some management.

That’s not to say traditional obstacles are no longer relevant, and in some ways, they are compounded. For an industry which is so heavily based in hospitality and customer service, how do restaurants right the wrongs without some manger face-time and a few comped beverages?

Expectation is oft-hailed as the root of disappointment, and in that sense traditional restaurants do a better job crafting the guests’ expectation. Subliminal cues in interior design and staff verbiage inform the guest as to the style and type of service and food, which can be challenging to replicate in the delivery-only format.

Additionally, the owner/operator needs to ensure prices cover their food, labor, and operation costs and still deliver perceived value to the consumer. While wholesome, honest ingredients and prep may go into the food, a “restaurant quality” meal entails more than just the ingredients themselves. Here’s where things like temperature and presentation come into play, as well as training the delivery person to assume more of a server-like or brand ambassador role.

The market is ever-changing and ever-expanding and we, as owners and operators, need to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating our consumer, customer, and guests wants and needs before they do. Delivery-only restaurants and commissaries present a formerly hard to come by opportunity for a lower start-up cost ventures, and offer great source of additional revenue stream for restaurants, but the traditional restaurant isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

For more insight on the delivery-only format and other market trends, reach out to us at TRG

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