2018’s Hottest Restaurant Industry Trends: A Mid-Year Recap
It’s hard to believe we’re already midway through 2018. It seems like just yesterday we were writing our 2018 Restaurants Trends to Monitor & Embrace article last December.
Now that we’re halfway through the year, we wanted to take a look at some of the restaurant industry trends we’ve seen evolving over the last few months. If you read our restaurant trends article late last year, you’ll notice reoccurring themes – restaurant technology and menu trends are still two of the hottest industry trends and aren’t going anywhere.
Let’s take a look at what we found.
Menus continue to get healthier as operators search for cost-effective, locally sourced organic and socially conscious food that they can add their restaurant’s selection. Gluten-free and paleo menu options will also grow in popularity as allergy concerns, and diet-friendly dishes become a priority to consumers. Consumers will continue to gravitate towards ethnic foods with unique, bold tastes as those who value the dining experience will be looking for new flavors.
Labor continues to be a topic of conversation. At the beginning of 2018, the minimum wage increased in 18 states and 20 cities in the U.S. Both unit growth and a healthy labor market have contributed to increased payroll costs. According to RSM, there’s been a labor shortage in the hospitality industry – specifically in GM positions across the nation. Operators will need to find ways to attract and retain talent in this position.
3. Restaurant Technology
Technology is arguably the most significant trend that’s here to stay. We attended both the National Restaurant Association Show and MURTEC this year and technology was the hottest topic. The industry will be going through a digital transformation and operators need to be ready for the changes.
4. Off-Premise Dining
Delivery and carry-out continue to boom. According to Restaurant Business’ Consumer Trends: The Consumer Carryout Craze, only 14 percent of consumers do not order to-go food at least once a month. The popularity of off-premise dining continues to grow and has become the biggest consumer demand in the industry. Whether you invest in a third-party delivery partner’s services or manage your strategy in-house, you cannot ignore off-premise dining.
Data allows you to gather information from every step in the dining experience journey, giving operators the important information they need to enhance the guest experience. Restaurant analytics and data give you the ability to execute on smarter marketing campaigns, identify areas for improvement, and ultimately cut costs and save money.
6. Mobile payment and ordering
Mobile ordering and mobile payment will become table stakes for the restaurant industry, especially for quick-serve and fast casual concepts. This method is much quicker than other payment options, leading to speedier checkout and shorter lines. Mobile ordering has changed the dining experience and improved convenience for consumers. Toast found that the average online check size is 23% larger than in-store checks.
7. Online Ordering Platforms & Loyalty Programs
Investing in technologies that keep you closer to your guests will position your restaurant for success. This year, you’ll see operators using online ordering platforms and loyalty programs to collect guest data to create marketing initiatives. With this, data security will become more critical as customer-facing technology becomes more prevalent.
8. Menu engineering and labor management
To combat menu inflation, menu engineering and labor management will be a focus area for many operators. Labor technology will be on the rise this year too. This process will allow operators to evaluate traffic patterns and efficiently manage payroll.
9. AI and Restaurants
Artificial Intelligence is a topic to pay attention to in the restaurant industry. There was even a presentation dedicated to this topic at MURTEC. Hosted by the CEO of Caliburger, he shared his experience with and successes of the Caliburger’s AI, Flippy. Flippy is a burger flipping robot and uses facial recognition with customers. This way, Flippy can engage with loyal customers.
10. Restaurant Branding
Operators continue to make branding a big part of their focus in 2018. There will be a heavy emphasis on guest experience and convenience. Brand risk will also be a growing concern. With guests routinely sharing their dining experiences on social media, operators will want to make sure they have programs to monitor social media and promote their brand.
Reviews have become increasingly important to branding as more and more consumers take to the Internet to voice their opinions on a restaurant. Some studies suggest that the addition or subtraction of a restaurant’s star rating will impact their revenue 5 to 9%. Having a plan in place for responding to negative restaurant reviews can help with overall ratings and brand image.
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About the Author
Emily Wimpsett was a Content & Social Media Specialist at QSR Automations. Emily was born and raised in Louisville but considers herself a die-hard University of Kentucky fan. For college, Emily attended Indiana University Southeast and obtained a degree in Communications with a track in Advertising. In her free time, Emily enjoys just about every water related activity but she is partial to kayaking and whitewater rafting.