The Restaurant Group Blog

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!

Restaurant Renovation Pt 2: Creating Your Design Concept

restaurant design concept

In Part 1 of this two-part post, we talked about how to decide if your restaurant is ready for a face lift. If you’re still reading, congratulations! You’re ready to modernize your business. Don’t start picking out paint chips and fabric swatches just yet, however – the best renovation plans are only complete with a fully formed restaurant design concept from the very beginning.

Who is My Clientele?

So you’ve decided that your current design doesn’t work for the crowd you’re hoping to attract — but who, exactly, are you trying to attract? Families? Businessmen? College students? Tourists? Every design and menu decision that you make has to be centered around your target clientele, so make sure you clarify exactly who that is before you go any further.

What Do I Want to Accomplish?

Making more money and attracting more customers are rather vague as far as goals go. Instead, consider things like, do you want to completely re-do the vibe of your space, or do you only have the budget to freshen it up a bit? Do you need to strengthen your brand image, or re-create it entirely? Clearly define your goals now, and your plans will roll much more smoothly later on in the process.

What Do My Current Customers Like?

In undergoing a renovation, you run the risk of losing customers who don’t like what you’ve done with the place. It may be a good idea to run an opinion poll for a few weeks at least before you start getting into the nitty-gritty of your renovation. You may be able to incorporate things that your current clients like, and get some ideas of things that new customers may want to see as well.

Who Am I Working With?

Unless you are one of the rare restaurant owners who can also contract a renovation project, you will be working with others to get your restaurant in shape. The right design team can make all the difference to the end result. Our dedicated designers at TRG Restaurant Consulting will listen to your goals and desires to help you design a space that meets your needs, and that your customers will love.

Restaurant Renovation Pt 1: Are You Ready for a Face Lift?

Renovation

Established business owners sometimes feel that updating or renovating their restaurant space is an unnecessary expense. After all, if it’s not broken, why fix it? However, you could be losing business if it has been more than five or six years since you’ve changed up the customer experience at your restaurant. If you think you may be ready to give your space a face lift, ask yourself these four questions.

Does My Dining Area Speak to the Right Crowd?

While you may have no trouble getting repeat business from the Baby Boomers who have had their morning coffee at your place for the past twenty years, your restaurant could have a lot more potential than that. Do Gen Y and Millennials visit often? Or do you have a space that is family-oriented? If your dining area is no longer a good fit for the customers you are hoping to attract, it’s time to make some changes.

Are My Competitors Making Changes?

You can’t base all your business decisions on what the competition is doing, but if several restaurants in your area have updated their space, it’s probably time for you to do the same. After all, you don’t want your clients heading over to the burger joint down the street simply because it looks newer.

Is There Enough Space?

In just about every industry, minimalism is becoming more popular, requiring more spacious areas with fewer things in them. In other words, people expect to have more room. Elbow-to-elbow cafes and crowded diners are just not viable restaurant spaces anymore.

Do I Like Coming to Work?

You got into the restaurant business for a reason — because you love serving food to people who love to eat it, right? But if it feels like a drag to step into your restaurant, a renovation could give you the boost you need to love what you do again. They do say that a change is as good as a rest.

At TRG Restaurant Consulting, we are passionate about helping restaurant owners create an experience that they and their customers will love. Stay tuned for Part 2, where you can find out how to create the restaurant space of your dreams.

Why You Should Have a Feasibility Study Before You Start a New Restaurant – Reducing Risk

Feasibility Study

According to Restaurant Startup & Growth magazine, close to 25% of restaurants fail in their first year of operation. One way to mitigate the risk of restaurant ownership is to conduct a feasibility study before the business opens. A feasibility study examines an idea, identifies potential issues, and attempts to determine if you should proceed with the project or abandon it.

A carefully thought out business plan paired with a subsequent feasibility study will increase the likelihood of success. The key elements of a typical study are below.

Location analysis

A location can make or break a business, especially a restaurant. A proper site analysis includes potential issues and solutions, demographic information, current and potential competition, advertising options, etc. Even detailed statistics like traffic data (foot, road, and public transportation) are used.

Labor analysis

A business owner relies on staff to keep the operation running smoothly. A combination of demographics data and a favorable location increases the probability of attracting the right employment candidates for your business needs. And hiring the right person the first time reduces turnover and training costs, while freeing up the owner’s time to focus on strategic planning instead of the daily restaurant operations.

Cash flow projections

Cash flow projections are an important element of any business’ feasibility study, as without adequate income the operation can quickly succumb to debt and fail. Evaluating potential roadblocks and ways to overcome them before the business is open will greatly reduce the amount of stress on the business owner.

No business owner wants to fail, and careful planning ahead of time can reduce that probability. A quality feasibility study is a complicated task, requiring expertise, precision, and experience. You might not have the time required to complete it, so outsourcing this job to the experts is a wise choice.

 

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

Chain Restaurant Growth Report 2016

Restaurant Growth Report 2016

Despite this wildly contentious election, the state of our nation has been improving and continues to do so. The economy is steadily growing, unemployment is down, and banks are loaning again, but eight years out of The Great Recession where are we in the terms of the restaurant growth?

As the capital has once again begun to flow, people are opening restaurants, purchasing franchises, and frequenting establishments now more than ever in the last ten years.

But where are they choosing to put their money, and where are they choosing to spend their money?

The top 10 of the Top 100 Chains are a safe bet, housing the brands we are all familiar with – McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Chick-Fil-A.

These are sales powerhouses and show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. McDonald’s takes the number one slot by a landslide with $35.8 BILLION in sales, while number two, Starbucks clocks in with a comparatively meager $15.6 billion. 

But what’s changing? What discernable shifts are taking place, opening up room in the top ten for formerly second-rate money makers? As restaurant consultants, this is what we’re most interested in. For one, with Domino’s surpassing Applebee’s, 2016 marks the first year no casual dining chain was included in the top 10 highest grossing brands. It’s not that Applebees’ had a bad year, it’s more accurate to say that Domino’s had a great year.

Let’s take a look at what this means for the restaurant business…

For years the public had to choose between speed of service and quality of food. That’s no longer the case with limited service restaurants like Chipotle, Panera, B. Good, and Sweet Greens surging ahead. WIth these options you’re no longer confined to either a lackluster hamburger via drivethru window or 45 minute sit down meal.

This is related to a familiar sentiment you’ve seen echoed on our blog before; quality. Consumers are craving simple, honest ingredients with thoughtful preparations, and they’re willing to pay for it. As a nation we’ve become more focused on what we’re putting into our bodies and where exactly that produce, poultry, meat, or fish is coming from. This has been the driving force behind quality focused food in an expedited time frame.

Consumers aren’t ready to give up their McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell just yet, as evidenced by their presence in the top 10 highest grossing chains. These are established brands where consumers will find a very expected product and service. Your quarter pounder isn’t going to taste much different state to state and nor will the time frame in which you wait, or your general dining experience differ all too much. However, we are seeing tremendous growth is in lesser known brands such as Jersey Mike’s Subs, Chick-Fil-A, and Wingstop. 

2017 will usher in continued growth in the brands and establishments that are serving tasty and healthful food in an expedited setting. We’ll see more growth in the chicken sector, and continued shift away from casual-dining establishments in favor of limited service restaurants or independently chef-owned restaurants.

Looking for a more fine-tuned analysis? Contact us here at TRG Consulting for a free quote, and stay tuned to our blog for all things restaurant industry related.

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