2013 Restaurant Trends

Balancing good quality with low prices is going to be the main act restaurants must master in the new year. Here are the restaurant trends we’ll be seeing in 2013:

  1. FRESH, HEALTHY, & ALL OVER GOOD – Quality is being questioned at every turn these days.  People want made-in-house meals with fresh, locally grown ingredients.  They want less grease, less artificial sweeteners, and more health-conscious items.  And they want it to taste great too!  If you are an unfreeze and re-heat kind of kitchen, you may want to consider what small changes you can make or menu items you can add to make your products more competitive in today’s chef-inspired culture.  Form a relationship with your local bakery for freshly made desserts or start a special salad menu that promotes ingredients from your local farmer’s market.
  2. PRICES IN CHECK – All that locally grown food cannot mean higher prices on the menu, though – at least not obviously to your customers.  It’s almost a catch 22, so for successful restaurants, it’s about adjusting the profit margins on different items across your menu, negotiating with your food suppliers, or offering different types of specials and sales. You may opt to increase some of your drink items to offset food losses, or vice versa.  Experiment with the bottom line, so the customer isn’t feeling robbed at the register, but you’re still making money.  With the ‘fiscal cliff’ and ‘debt ceiling’ all over the news, you know money concerns are on everyone’s mind.  You may opt to do smaller, seasonal menus instead of committing to the same one big menu all year round in order to keep things fresh yet your budget in check.  Plus, it’s intriguing for guests to know that every time they come, they can try something new.  However, I do recommend keeping a few signature items that people will want to come back for again and again.
  3. QUICK & CASUAL – With fine dining down and quick serves rising in popularity, more people will expect quick (but high quality) food in a casual atmosphere.  They want to stop in after class with friends, or not have to worry about changing their kids’ outfits, and they want to wear jeans and caps everywhere they go.  It’s a more casual world today, and restaurants need to cater to that sense of being part of their customers’ everyday routines.
  4. FULL COURSE TAKEOUTS – You know the mom who works a full day (probably is running late), and still has to get her son to basketball and help her daughter with that book report that is due tomorrow?  Yeah, well she’s looking for a healthy and hearty meal for her family on the run, and your restaurant could save her day.  Restaurants who splurge on their takeout packaging and promote their ‘to go’ menus will win in 2013.  Include heating instructions and an after dinner mint for that added touch.  Launching a new takeout strategy may work well for the existing finer dining establishments who want to try to target a new more casual customer base this year.
  5. MOBILE FRIENDLY – As mobile continues to integrate into everyone’s every day, your restaurant will need to continue to adopt to its fury (whether you like it or not).  Make sure your restaurant is being found on mobile GPS units, your website is mobile-friendly, and your menu is easy to find and up-to-date.  Offer paperless discounts and be sure your point-of-sale system is equipped to record such transactions.  Use social accordingly, and integrate everything you do to promote your business with mobile in mind.  Keep your eye on new restaurant apps, emerging technologies, and evolving customer behaviors to come in the future.
  6. SPECIAL DIETS – Pick a trend and go with it.  Whether you want to offer Weight Watchers® points on some of your meals, provide gluten-free courses, or star your low carb items, making it easy for someone to read your menu and pick a meal that fits their special diet will do wonders for your reputation and improve your customer satisfaction scores.  You may want to do something simple – like separating your vegan meals – or go full out with sections dedicated to people who must eat pareve or who are on the Atkins diet. If you’re not sure what special diet most of your customers are committed to, ask them.  Have in-store conversations, host a poll on your website, or open up some diet-related discussions in online social media spaces to see what’s trending within your target audience.
  7. INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR – Asian cuisine has been popular for a few years, and maybe that’s why dine-outers are more experimental when it comes to international flavors.  Regardless of what new cuisine you introduce, try something exciting from a different part of the world.  South America and the Mediterranean might be good places to draw inspiration from this coming year.  Cautious?  Try it as a monthly special before putting it on the menu year-round.
  8. GO BIG, OR GO SMALL – America is torn deciding if bigger is better or if they want small sample-sized tastes.  Fast food and quick serve joints are doing phenomenal with their big dinner box type promotions, but also ranking high in popularity are dessert shots, small sized meals, and snacky kind of foods.  ‘Average size’ seems almost boring these days. So try something big – or something small – and see what portion size works best for you.
  9. SIMPLE FOODS INFUSED – Some of the best selling items are the most common ones.  But how can your restaurant do them better?  Whether it’s a burger, a meat-and-potatoes meal, wings, or even a sloppy joe, you can turn something simple and ordinary into something out-of-the-ordinary by infusing some unexpected ingredients.  Get creative!

Are you trying something new or innovative in 2013?  Let us know how you’re keeping things exciting this year.

PS: If you’re looking for a fresh new look this year, please remember that some new, fashionable restaurant furniture will spruce your space up. (And we can help!)

4 Restaurant Trends Heating Up Summer of 2012

It’s hot outside, but are you turning up the heat on your business?  Here are some of the biggest growing trends in restaurants this summer:

  1. Outdoor Dining – In recent years, the number of restaurants turning to outside dining has significantly increased.  Customers are attracted to the great outdoors and enjoy knowing they have the option to sit on a patio while dining with friends.  If you have the space and ability to serve diners outside, perhaps you should consider applying for the proper permits and looking for some outdoor restaurant furniture!
  2. Chef Grown Foods – The buzzword of the last few years has been sustainability, and restaurant chefs need to be aware of the change in how people think about food and where it comes from.  Plus, economically speaking, if you can sustain some of your own menu items, it is win-win for everyone!  Rooftop herbal gardens are popping up on cityscape restaurants, but it doesn’t stop there.  Your restaurant may grow your own veggies, or take it a step beyond and consider a farm-to-fork program to raise your own meat, or even recruit a chef who doubles as a bee keeper.  By controlling what ingredients you use, you also control quality, which is also important to you and your guests.

  1. Seasonal Menu Items – From fast food to fine dining, most restaurants introduce appropriate summer themed menu items.  Whether you add bacon and barbecue sauce to your best selling burger, or launch a line of healthy salads (I recommend a mixture of strawberries, spinach, feta cheese, almonds, and a sweet poppy-seed dressing), it’s summer time and you need to take advantage of the fresh foods available at this time of year and also meet your customers’ expectations for a sizzling summer taste.  Offer corn on the cob as a new summer side dish, or challenge your chef to get creative with other fruit and vegetable recipes.  Experiment with rhubarb, asparagus, or artichokes.  Don’t forget it’s also a great season to get the freshest seafood from your local fish markets.  Create your own spin on classic summer dishes or invent something brand new that hollers summertime.  Summer can be done well, no matter what type of clientele you cater to, so don’t be afraid to introduce fresh new summer specials to your menu today.
  2. Less is More – Summer diners tend to enjoy smaller portions, maybe due to the heat or maybe due to a change in summer lifestyle where they are snacking more throughout the day and don’t need a huge dinner-sized meal when they stop into your restaurant.  Be sure to offer some smaller portioned entrees, and don’t forget to give them a small shot of dessert, too.  Keep in mind many people will meet up with friends for just appetizers and drinks more so in the summer, so adding a great summer appetizer and cocktail list to your menu will be well appreciated, too!  Don’t forget to promote your local breweries and wineries, which often launch summer ales and new wines this time of year as well.

Whether you have an outdoor restaurant or are just making the most of summer through your menu (and air conditioning!), it’s a great season for your bar or restaurant.