12 Full-Service Restaurant Trends for 2018

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flickr: Michael Stern
What’s Next?

The New Year is not far away, and with it will come a host of changes. The full-service restaurant industry sees new food trends, industry trends, and big changes every year. FSR takes a deep dive into we can expect for 2018.

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flickr: mc559
Apples and pears

These two tree fruits are going to replace pumpkin as the fall produce of choice, says Suzy Badaracco, president of Culinary Tides, Portland, Ore. The interest will lie in heirloom or hybrid varietals and they’ll be put in everything from snacks to beverages, she says. “Think varietal hard ciders. These fruits are way more adaptable than pumpkin could ever be. Pumpkin is now having to form alliances—with ginger, or citrus for example—to keep its head above water.”

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flickr: Jenny Downing

The new year’s ice will be infused, branded—with a bar’s initials, for example—and smoked. Even Starbucks, says Badaracco, is testing frozen coffee as ice cubes. 

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flickr: portilaj
Plant water

Plant waters will become the rock stars of the beverage world in 2018, forecasts Badaracco. These include waters made from aloe, cactus, coconut, and maple. They can be drunk alone or in cocktails, she says. “They can act as the leading lady or the best friend in 2018. “Once they’ve become known for drinks, she expects to see these being added to baked goods and used with meats—as marinades, sauces, brines.

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flickr: Han N
International comfort desserts

The hot desserts next year will be comfort desserts from abroad, Badaracco believes. These will include dishes like halo-halo, a shaved ice dish from the Philippines; mochi from Japan (a rice cake); and tarts—France’s version of the American pie. For American desserts, they have to be regional, she says, such as key lime pie or chess pie from the south

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flickr: Michelle Milla
Regional beverages
Moonshine, Tennessee whiskey, New York rye, cachaça from Brazil, South American cocktails like the michelada, and whiskey from Asia will all take off in 2018, Badaracco predicts.
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flickr: Chris Brown
Restaurant guests are going to be sharing more food, says Daniel Boutarel, managing associate with New England Consulting Group (NECG) in Norwalk, Conn. Barcelona Wine Bar, a full-service chain with locations from Connecticut to Tennessee is a rapidly growing chain that he expects to increase in popularity. “Sharing is a lot more profitable for a restaurant; instead of four meals on a table you might see six or eight,” he says
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flickr: 羽諾 諾咪
Off-premise explosion

We’ll see more drive-through, curbside pickup, delivery and catering from full-service restaurants as we move into 2018, says Boutarel. “Plus, we’ll see more units being production focused rather than sit-down—or they’ll have very limited seating.” IHOP and Applebee’s have both announced many restaurant closures this year in order to focus more on off-premise “and we’ll also see retrofitting to offer this,” says Boutarel. “A lot of concepts need to think about this if less than 50 percent of their business is dine in. And this is happening at all levels of restaurants, except maybe fine dining.” This is all based on convenience, Boutarel adds, and he expects to see fewer outlets from chains, so they can focus more on convenience.

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flickr: Steve Snodgrass
More casualties for casual dining

We’ll see many store closures within the casual dining segment in 2018, forecasts Carla Norfleet Taylor, senior director with Fitch Ratings, a credit rating agency in New York City. Casual dining has been losing market share for about a decade and its sales are flat, whereas the overall restaurant industry has been growing at a rate of about 5 percent CAGR, Norfleet says. “So we’re thinking those share losses are going to continue.”

Casual dining will need to get into more off-premise food, of which Olive Garden is a great example, “since it’s won share in a declining category,” Norfleet says. “That brand has been generating positive same-store sales for the past two years now and is attributing that to the to-go options.”

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flickr: Ben Miller
Smarter tech
Technology’s going to infiltrate full-service restaurants even more, according to Gary Stibel, NECG’s founder and CEO. “There are patrons who want to order a drink or pay without waiting for the server. It will be gradual, because technology on the table will offend some, but those who don’t have it, could lose a patron.” Also, adds Boutarel, restaurants will need to focus on having loyalty programs that really generate loyalty and aren’t just promotional. “Restaurants will know more about their patrons through technology and need to use that,” says Stibel. “They’ll know that someone likes table seven and they like a certain server.” And, adds Boutarel, restaurants should start using technology more to get in touch with customers—just offering friendly reminders via email or text, such as: We saw you ordered a shrimp burrito from us last week; would you like that again?
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flickr: Diego
The Internet of things
In 2018, sensors are going to come to the fore, says Jarrod DellaChiesa, technology and operations consultant with Synergy Restaurant Consultants in Newport Beach, California, and founder of DellaChiesa Hospitality. These will include sensors that monitor refrigerator doors being closed and sensors to monitor patterns showing which areas of the restaurant are used more frequently. “It’s about using sensors to get more data on the restaurant,” he says. This will be used everywhere but will have a particular impact on chains, which can track information and ensure everything is compliant.
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flickr: GotCredit.com
EMV payments
We’re soon going to see restaurants taking credit card payments at the table, using EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) devices, as it’s done in much of Europe. “As data system hacks become more prevalent people are more leery about letting their card out of their sight and restaurants are the only place you have to do that,” Della Chiesa explains.
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flickr: Mark's Postcards from Beloit
Delivery tied in with technology
It won’t be long before restaurants’ full-scale delivery systems, along with any partners, such as UberEATS, will all be integrated through one POS system. “Customers want to take care of their whole transaction on their phone,” says Della Chiesa, and they want to know how long their wait is going to be. “Restaurants will be able to literally update the guest every step of the way so people can know when their food is leaving; when it is pulling up at their door. If you do this smartly, you eliminate calls to the restaurant, you eliminate guest anxiety so they’re more likely to call you again and it saves money, resources and labor.”