- Locally sourced meats and seafood
- Chef-driven fast-casual concepts
- Locally grown produce
- Hyper-local sourcing
- Natural ingredients
What do all of these things possibly have in common? Either to your excitement or annoyance and depending on whether you’re a Stop & Shop versus Whole Foods kind of person, these were the top five food trends of 2016, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Just ten years ago, the crazes ranged from cupcakes to TV personality chefs like Rachel Ray to slowly moving into a more organic and healthy mindset by the end of the decade. This once simple concept of a healthy mindset has become slowly more complicated with trends like “camera eats first” and “mostly vegetarian.”
Consumers’ dining preferences have significantly changed in the past decade and are more specific than ever. Work hours are longer than before and people are often on-the-go, which has led to an increased number of fast-casual and quick-service restaurants. With picky customers and trendy dietary restrictions, there follows a greater demand for customization and resulting in the “Chipotle model” to influence a business model change in other cuisines as well. The “Chipotle model” has expanded past merely Mexican cuisine but has broadened to make your own salads in places like Sweet Green, to Greek cuisine at Saloniki, to make your own personal pizzas at Blaze. These quick-service restaurants cater to the specificity of the consumer and allows them to modify meals to accommodate any and all dietary restrictions.
The rise of social media over the decade has also created a growing demand for fad foods like extreme milkshakes from BlackTap NYC. With the “Explore” page of Instagram serving endless heaps of #foodporn, consumers are demanding more exotic and exciting food which pushes chefs to take risks and stay on trend. It can be stressful for a restaurant to adapt to consumers’ ever-changing needs, especially when the hospitality industry is changing right with it.
The culinary world has learned quickly that in order to stay relevant in the industry, they must cater to the people’s needs and wants. Chef David Chang of Momofuku branched out into the quick service industry with his restaurant Ko to make his food not only available to a broader demographic but to remain trendy in the greater NYC area. Chang also realized that in order to have a successful restaurant, one must market themselves effectively. Chang partnered with Nike in early 2017 to create the Nike SB Dunk High Momofuku shoe with the iconic peach logo. “Although, getting your restaurant’s brand/logo on a sneaker may not be every restaurateur’s goal, this speaks to how important it is to stay true to your identity,” says Project Specialist Anthony Ferrari. “Understanding how to utilize cohesive marketing, that not only continues to tell your story but also exposes new audiences to your brand, is key to tapping into these trends.”
The importance of staying relevant has not bypassed chef driven restaurants like Chang’s. Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group invested in the quick service restaurant, Tender Greens, a build your own salad restaurant. These iconic leaders in the restaurant industry have found that in order to stay trendy and relevant, they have to make their meals more approachable to the broader public. “Something as ubiquitous as ‘quick serve salads shops,’ tells us a lot about what these industry leaders are thinking about, engaging with and touch points with a much larger volume of guests, giving that much more of an opportunity to showcase service and quality differentiators that will hopefully create dining habits and a loyal customer base,” Ferrari said.
The growth of the quick service industry in the United States has led many chefs and industry professionals to look to the segment as one with potential to appeal to a broader customer base. By introducing the brand to more consumers, the brand is able to remain relevant in a constantly evolving industry.