This year saw several food trends gain widespread popularity—fermented foods, over-the-top cocktail garnishes, and sustainable fare, to name just a few. So, what does 2019 have in store? It’s fun to speculate about food trends, but restaurant operations are evolving too.
The restaurant business is hypercompetitive, so finding new ways to cut costs and increase guest loyalty is always a priority. The best restaurant management teams will create new strategies to improve market share and reduce expenses. As 2019 gets underway, keep an eye on these three trends:
Consumer enthusiasm for online and app-based food ordering and home delivery shows no signs of losing steam in the coming year. In fact, the market share for off-premises dining will grow from $35 billion in 2018 to an astonishing $365 billion by 2030, according to a recent USB study.
That means restaurants have to get smarter about off-premises dining. Many find it challenging to work with multiple delivery vendors, noting the difficulty of dealing with an array of tablets for orders, negative customer experiences and operational effects, and fees that take a bite out of profits.
Look for restaurateurs to find new ways to improve the off-premises customer experience in 2019 by setting themselves apart from competitors with delivery bag surprises (complimentary desserts, etc.). Restaurants will also consolidate vendor relationships in the coming year.
In addition to streamlining the number of vendors they work with, restaurants will turn to solutions like outsourcing delivery through their own websites instead of taking orders through a third-party. This tactic will give the restaurant ownership of the guest data that comes in through the branded site.
Related to the influx of data from taking orders through their own websites, restaurants will become more data-driven in 2019 (following a digitalization trend that now affects virtually all industries). Most restaurants have guest rewards programs now, but data will help them optimize their programs.
To stay ahead of the competition, savvy restaurateurs will use their rewards programs to surprise and delight customers, driving traffic with an offer of bonus points on specific days. They may also provide discounts or free items before customers are strictly eligible, just to entice them to come back for more.
The most tech-forward restaurant managers will put their data to work in sophisticated ways, using guest information to create personalized offers and conducting behavioral retargeting campaigns. For example, they may offer a guest a discount on a favorite item they haven’t ordered in a while.
Today’s consumers crave authenticity. They look for non-generic dining experiences that they can enjoy at the restaurant or at home — and share on social media. This phenomenon gives smart restaurateursan opening to slim down overly ambitious menus and focus on their best dishes.
Rather than trying to please everyone with dozens and dozens of menu items, in 2019, restaurants will pare down menus—in some cases by half—to specialize in select dishes. This will let them focus on the food they’re most noted for and reduce inventory costs.
When handled correctly, the exercise of streamlining the menu can elevate the restaurant brand to new heights, satisfying the customer demand for more authentic dining experiences and bringing the restaurant back to its roots.
While food trends tend to take the restaurant world by storm and then fade away, efficient operations and excellent dining experiences are always in style. And digitalization is here to stay, so restaurants that want to stay competitive will optimize data use and their off-premises strategy on an ongoing basis.
Authenticity is another trend with staying power. In fact, it’s not really accurate to call it a trend; it’s a promise to guests that the restaurant will focus on what it does best. In 2019 and beyond, restaurants that get that right will continue to succeed.
Renae Scott is an accomplished c-level marketer with experience in a variety of industries. She now works as a contract CMO for a variety of organizations across the nation, including Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant.