6 Unexpected Trends for Restaurant Growth


The end of 2016 means industries are putting out their trend reports for the upcoming year. Usually these lists are anything but surprising. In fact, depending on your industry and periodical of choice, this year’s report may look nearly identical to the one you were reading 12 months ago. The best part of scouring trend reports is finding the one or two nuggets that were completely out of left field, but still make you think, “huh, could be.” Here are 6 of the game-changing food service trends we didn’t expect to hear this year.

Ancient foods. Experts are predicting that customers will be seeking recognizable products. Grains, recipes, and practices with historical, even ancient roots will increase in demand. In the hopes of weaning off the richness of holiday cuisine, food innovations that are rooted in ancient preparation techniques are going to be spiking early in the year. I say if you’ll find it in a pyramid, sign me up!

Comfort food becomes calming food. Calming herbs, commonly found in teas, will be incorporated into more snack and comfort foods like candy bars, chips, and crackers. Chamomile chocolate bar. Sounds delicious. Common selling points will be relaxing and sleep-improving effects. Who couldn’t use a couple extra hours of quality ZZZs?

Nomadic food service. Food trucks had a big year. Jumping off that tidal wave, 2017 is going to see a rise in modular and container fast-casual restaurants. As the most popular and successful fast food restaurants reach maturity, their industry innovators are looking for new ways to update aging or out-of-date franchises, expand their reach beyond traditional stick-and-brick models, and invest in feet-on-the-ground experience marketing packages. Modular and container options offer restaurateurs a level of ease and flexibility completely new to the industry.

Ugly food. Along with a global trend towards sustainability, the use of otherwise discarded ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables will open opportunities for food service providers, particularly in areas where the produce goes through some prep process. It’s unlikely that you’ll be seeing bruised up apples available at your local grocery store, but restaurants may make use of the cheaper price tags to prepare delicious, sustainable sauces and side dishes.

Redefining local and affordable produce. At long last, innovators in the health industry will begin to introduce their products to the market next year. This means that healthier options will be readily available at a local level to low-income households at affordable prices.

Fast fresh. Short-cut solutions that are still fresh, nutritious, and customizable will be in high demand. Fast and fresh food will be a huge selling point for food service providers. No one is surprised by an increasing demand for fresh produce to be integrated into fast-casual dining. However, time-centric marketing pitches were typically confined to pizza delivery. Expect to see more direct communication about exactly how long an interaction will take. Maybe you won’t get a free pizza after 30 min, but get excited for accountability when it comes to time-sensitive meals like weekday breakfast and lunches.

Trend reporters don’t always get it right. So, hope for the best and expect the unexpected. For more kick-angus blogs about restaurants and food service, sign up for our monthly newsletter.