Restaurant Trends for 2014: What to Watch

2014 Restaurant Trends

Every December, upcoming trends are published and shared so that restaurant owners can decide if they’d like to continue with their current service, food, and décor—or if new trends will benefit their business and clientele.

We have scoured industry blogs and articles, and we’ve gathered the most talked about restaurant trends that your customers may come to expect in 2014.

Local Sourcing Stands Out. This idea, which started to become popular about five years ago, continues to grow. Using locally-produced food means that you are supporting others in your community, that you truly believe fresh is best and the most nutritious, and that you’re environmentally conscientious. Some restaurants are being built next to garden areas, allowing them to use hyper-local sourcing—literally, food from a restaurant’s backyard.  Because the phrase farm-to-table is being used a lot these days, be careful to identify your local food sources very clearly and with the utmost transparency.  If you get your eggs from Farmer Jones on Lincoln Road in Your Town, USA, say so!

The True Power of Social Media. If you concentrate on one thing this year to bring customers in the door, it should be to learn and then use social media. Many restaurant owners set up a Facebook page, link it to a Twitter account, and then do nothing else. In the meantime, people are looking for information about your restaurant and come across a Facebook page with one post, with no reviews, with no menu or pricing. Don’t let that happen! If you don’t have time, hire someone to help you. Now that Google+ is starting to gain traction in the social media world, it’s another source of information that people will use to make decisions about where to eat, so you should post on there too after creating a Google+ business page. You can use Twitter to share promotions and to attract bloggers and local businesses. Overwhelming? It can be, but setting aside 20 minutes a day to work on social media will pay big dividends.  (If you need help learning the ropes of each network, check out this series of articles I wrote regarding social media for restaurants.)

Bread Makes a Comeback. After years of a downturn in bread and starches, mostly because of fad diets that were trumpeting meat, people are beginning their love affair with bread, pasta, and potatoes again. Starches are once again an acceptable part of restaurant menus, and they’ve branched out. Specialty and flatbreads are becoming a part of bread baskets but are also complementing main dishes.

Healthy Kids’ Meals. If you want to attract families to your restaurant, you probably have chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and mac and cheese on the menu. With consumers becoming more and more interested in the benefits of healthy food, though, many parents prefer that their kids have a nutritious meal when they eat out. But what can you serve that’s healthy AND that kids will enjoy? There are programs available, such as Kids LiveWell (a partnership with Healthy Dining and the National Restaurant Association), that introduces meal selections to restaurants that feature lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables and fruits.

Ordering Using a Mobile Device. Online ordering ahead of time used to be a technological wonder. Now, restaurants are jumping ahead and letting customers sit down and order using a mobile device—mostly using customers’ devices in the era of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). However, a major restaurant chain just announced their plans to use a tablet at every table that they say will decrease wait times and make them an attractive option for a quick lunch or a long dinner—plus diners don’t have to flag their server down to get the check. While smaller, independent restaurants may think that’s a pretty expensive way to attract customers, remember that many companies who design apps that can be used on customer’s mobile devices are competing for the businesses of smaller restaurants. If you consider convenience to be one reason why people want to eat at your restaurant, you should consider what you can do to upgrade the customer experience.

These ideas are just the beginning of what 2014 will bring to the restaurant business. While most places won’t be adopting all of these ideas, owners can use this list to introduce fresh concepts to their customers.

We wish you all a successful new year!

Sourcing Local Foods During the Winter for Your Restaurant

The local food movement has gained popularity in recent years as more and more chefs, restaurant managers, and even everyday food shoppers show a preference for locally-sourced food. It continues to gain traction around the United States as a growing number of people become more socially and environmentally responsible consumers.  If your servers can place fresh food atop your cafe tables year round, your food-conscience patrons will appreciate your concerns…and the tastiness of your cuisine!

"Fresh food for dinner" by Tammy Strobel, RowdyKittens on Flickr (http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8217/8333713835_2f486e2278_o.jpg)

“Fresh food for dinner” by Tammy Strobel, RowdyKittens on Flickr (http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8217/8333713835_2f486e2278_o.jpg)

Advantages of Eating Local

Eating local benefits not only those who produce locally-sourced food and those who buy it, it also is good for communities as a whole. Many people who eat local form long-lasting relationships with the farmers from whom they buy, and locally-sourced food is more nutritious than what you will find from your bulk food distributors.

Further, the environmental benefits are significant: food that doesn’t have to be transported hundreds or thousands of miles produces a much lower carbon footprint.

Sourcing Locally During the Fall and Winter

If your restaurant is concentrating on providing customers with locally-sourced food, remember that your menu may be limited to what is on hand in the region that you live in. You’re offering autumn harvest menu entrees now, but what happens when the snow begins to fall?  Here are some suggestions for finding market-sourced food during the cold months.

  • Purchase local meat and dairy. Raising animals isn’t limited to the spring and summer. Be sure to talk to local farmers and buyer’s groups so that you will be able to create new dishes using locally-raised meats.
  • Some Fruits and Vegetables Are “Winter Ready.” Farmers often use greenhouses, fermentation, cold storage, and other methods to grow produce the whole year. Many of them also use root cellars and climate-controlled spaces on their land that allow them to store produce.
  • Find a CSA Program That Offers Variety. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, allows you to have a relationship with a farmer or group of farmers who will supply you with local food during the entire year. They often pool their produce and sell it to restaurants, schools, and families. The more farmers there are in the group, the better your winter produce selection will be.

Don’t let the cold months stop you from serving your customers farm-to-table food!  During winter, you can still offer fresh, seasonal, and delicious items that will tempt guests’ taste buds and convince them to venture to your restaurant for a wonderful, local meal no matter the weather.