The food industry is more diverse than ever – which means that people have more choices on where to dine, drink and enjoy time with friends than ever before. How can you ‘up your game’ to appeal to today’s dine-outers? Try local food options, new plant-based dishes and selections that cater to current eating preferences.
Avendra keeps a watchful eye on the evolving food and beverage scene. Here is our collection of key trends to help capture your customers’ changing flavor, ingredient and wellness preferences.
Focus on food ecology. Thanks to an expanding consumer consciousness, people today want to know that their food meets ethical and environmental standards. Concerns include water usage and disposal, humane treatment of animals and workers on farms, restrictions on antibiotics, additives and genetic modification; and a focus on local suppliers. They also want to know about their food through transparent labeling. Finally, diners appreciate it when food has a story with a human, rather than corporate, point of view. Restaurants that feature products with a moral conscience gain an edge.
Diet-friendly foods. So many consumers are following restricted diets today – primarily focusing on holistic, unprocessed foods. The popularity of plant-based, paleo, vegan, and gluten- and allergen-free eating means that traditional menus must change from protein-heavy, carb-loaded offerings to those featuring vegetables and legumes (sometimes with protein as a side). Kudos go to chefs who do something creative with the vegetables, such as experimenting with global cuisines or new hybrids rather than simply serving up another “grilled vegetable plate.”
Healthy snacking options. Food consumers have realized that snacks don’t have to be bad for you. Many of the newest products, according to Tapan Shah, director of AccelFoods (an Avendra partner that helps us bring the latest food & beverage products to customers), especially those for kids, feature protein and other healthy ingredients. Even in the sweets category, what Tapan calls “healthy indulgences” focus on combining substances that people crave, like chocolate, with other more substantial and nutritional ingredients.
Creative alternatives. The latest National Restaurant Association Show was heavy with what one columnist called substitutes for “meats, sweets, and wheats.” The theme remains healthy eating preferences, but dishes that include imaginative “root to stem” use of vegetables or micro-vegetables also offer diners a new experience. Other trends that can differentiate a menu: surprising new cuts of meat that also reduce food waste, and culture-based influences like the Hawaiian inspired poke dishes. Small plates or tapas are an excellent way to respond to diners’ preferences for smaller dishes, and a “build your own salad/pasta/plate” option is a fun way to accommodate various dietary preferences and palettes.
Flavor front and center. What some foodies call the “Sriracha effect” refers to the new preference for hot and spicy in combination with almost everything else. Indeed, even as diners want some ingredients taken out, there’s also a desire for bold and creative flavors added in to everything from pasta sauces to adult soft drinks.
Technology takes on food. Today’s restaurants have felt the effect of social media and online customer reviews, obviously, but we expect technology to become even more integrated into the dining experience, providing everything from detailed data on ingredients to streamlined ordering for the burgeoning take-home market. And then there are 3D printers, which can print food in imaginative shapes. In this area, the possibilities are endless!