If you were to deconstruct your menu and assess the key nutrients included in each dish, where does your menu over-deliver (or under-deliver)? Having this detailed level of knowledge about the foods you serve will soon be a key advantage in foodservice – if it isn’t already. Mintel’s new Global Food and Drink Trends 2030 report, which forecasts what the next decade will look like in food and beverage consumption, predicts technology will play an increasingly important role in providing consumers with in-depth, customized information about their health and nutritional needs. What’s more, consumers will become more comfortable sharing their personal data if it means they are getting information tailor-made for them in return. Imagine struggling with anxiety and depression – or an autoimmune disease, or high blood pressure – and knowing which specific foods and restaurants in your neighborhood can provide you with the best combinations of nutrients your body needs to function at its best, while omitting harmful additives? Of course, the current climate is so challenging for restaurants that many operators aren’t focusing on menus at the level of nutrients. But people will always need food – and are becoming more conscious about their needs and willing to support the businesses that accommodate them. Could you create several versions of a dish based on varying nutritional profiles? A range of meal kits that accommodate different diets? If you can step back and take a longer view of what your customers want and then market those benefits, you are likely to earn their loyalty for life.
Consumers are thinking more about not only their health but the health of the planet right now. Incorporating more plant-based meals into your menu and promoting their environmental, health and ethical benefits can help you support the changes they are making to their diets. A recent report from Meticulous Research estimates that the plant-based market will grow nearly 12 percent annually in the next seven years. Nestlé also reported that 87 percent of Americans are incorporating plant-based protein into their diets. As consumers look to eat more plant-based dishes, restaurants are in an ideal position to make those plants more craveable. Consider updating traditional dishes with plant-based alternatives and changing up presentations to add interest to your menu.
Restaurants have touted their environmentally friendly practices to consumers for some time – offering local produce, minimizing their waste and changing up their to-go packaging. In fact, the National Restaurant Association reported that back in 2018, more than half of consumers said they would be likely to choose a restaurant based on its eco-friendly practices, such as water conservation and recycling. But some restaurants are now raising their game a step higher in an effort to appeal to guests who are passionate about minimizing their impact on the environment. The fast-casual brand Just Salad announced recently that it would be launching a “climatarian” menu available to customers who order via its web and digital channels. The Spoon reports that guests can select a dish based on its carbon footprint or, in the case of meat lovers, opt for a “conscientious carnivores” dish. Guests will be able to determine the environmental impact of their build-your-own salad offerings too. Expect to see more restaurants drill down on – and promote – details about their sustainability efforts in such ways. According to research from IRI and NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, Millennial consumers are most likely to purchase products marketed as “sustainable” – these items are popular across demographics as well – and this trend has held true throughout the pandemic. At the same time, consumer expectations are rising when it comes to the craveability of the eco-friendly foods they buy. Darren Seifer of NPD Group said recently that the food industry needs to maintain and market the taste, health benefits and environmental impact of its offerings to continue to draw eco-conscious consumers.
Many fine dining operators have struggled to make their model work in recent months: At a time when a low-touch, efficient restaurant food experience seems to be the goal, the slower-paced, high-touch hospitality that fine dining is known for can seem very 2019. But 10 high-profile chefs in Los Angeles are finding a way to adapt the fine-dining model for these times. Fast Company reports that the chefs are collaborating on Resy Drive Thru, a 10-course fine-dining drive-thru that will be staged for two nights in mid-October. The chefs collaborated on a menu that is of equal caliber to the food they are used to serving in their restaurants, but it will be served from 10 stations along a track (and in a form that is easier to eat in a car). Guests have a chance to experience a creative variety of high-end food – likely beyond what they might get in a single fine-dining restaurant. What’s more, the drive-thru model, with some planning and collaboration, could easily be replicated in other parts of the country.
Plant-based foods may be taking the spotlight, but carnivores are still driving some food trends. The National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot culinary forecast for 2020 named unique beef and pork cuts to its list of top-10 trends for the year. If you serve devoted meat eaters and want to offer some appealing options for them on your menu, consider some creative, on-trend reinventions of animal proteins. The What’s Hot forecast suggests adding sweet heat to dishes – and exploring global ethnic flavors, particularly those in Asian island cuisine.
Creating a restaurant-quality salad at home isn’t easy: The textures and combinations of flavors can be difficult to replicate, they require a fair share of labor for a home cook to prepare, and they often generate waste in the process. This fall, your salads can help guests not only avoid those frustrations but also feel they are doing their part to protect their health. Raise your salad game with flavorful combinations that can be served as entrées, side dishes, or packaged in kit form for easy, no-waste preparation at home.
Recent research from NPD Group found that 54 percent of consumers want to incorporate more vegetables into their diets – and that their desire to make their existing eating behaviors healthier is driving it. Restaurant preparation can go far in elevating the appeal of a plant-based dish. As you look to offer more plant-based meals on your menu, consider using global flavors to boost the craveability factor of new dishes, from salads and soups to plant-based side dishes.