First Quarter Trends Within the Restaurant Industry

Here's how 2015 is shaping up.

Maybe it’s America’s resurgent obsession with bacon, or the emergence of legions of foodies, but people are flocking to restaurants again.

2015 is shaping up to be an excellent year for the restaurant industry, with TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence reporting that in January, restaurant chains posted their highest same-store sales and traffic growth rates in more than six years. As if that weren’t enough, the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 industry outlook projects record sales of $709 billion.

Already have your own restaurant or thinking about starting one given the promising year ahead? Read on for the top trends so far this year to make 2015 your best year yet.

Wages Up, Tipping Down?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurants are expected to hire 422,000 new employees, and the National Restaurant Association projects the overall restaurant industry to provide 14 million jobs in 2015.

This is great news for employees, but with minimum wage requirements quickly rising across the country, “the times they are a-changin’” for owners. Lucky workers in 29 states across the nation will get paid minimum wage rates higher than the federal base of $7.25 per hour.

One way to respond would be to change the way you compensate employees entirely, like this Pittsburgh restaurant that has done away with tips, offering employees a salary with benefits—and the employees are thrilled.

Technology, Technology, Technology

Yelp enthusiasts will surely agree: using technology to find and rate restaurants has been climbing quickly. The use of social media and online ordering are two areas that will continue to see increased use in 2015.

This year, 25 percent of consumers say technology options are important features that factor into their decision to choose a restaurant. Some trends to consider this year include the ability to order with a smartphone app, WiFi access, and the ability to review menus or make reservations online.

Table for One?

Another trend to watch out for in 2015 is an increase in single diners—that’s right; more and more people are ignoring the stigma associated with solo dining and restaurants are adjusting to support this change. It would be wise to stay ahead of this trend, as industry estimates suggest that singles have $1.9 trillion in purchasing power.

Including tasting menus, more bar seating, communal tables, and WiFi can make your restaurant more single-friendly. One enterprising eatery even offered a free lunch to anyone who had booked for two and gets stood up.

Staying in the Green

While “healthy eating” has been a trend for some time now, restaurants are shifting this “green” focus toward the environment by cutting food waste and taking other steps to be sustainable. In fact, reducing food waste ranked ninth among the top 20 food trends on the National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot in 2015” list. With Q1 behind us, 2015 is shaping up to be a great year!

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

read more