8 Top 2018 Food Trends to Rock Your Restaurant
Fasten your seat belts and tuck in your napkins, 2018 will be a wild ride with the customer in control. Emerging 2018 food trends reveal savvy customers who are health and ingredient conscious but also want extravagant indulgences. We break down what guests will be hungry for in 2018, and share easy ways to get your menu ready now.
1. Customization: Year of the BYO
Get ready…2018 food trends for restaurants will emphasize the “custom” in “customer.” Customers are eager to build out their own meals by picking and choosing ingredients.
In fact, you could call 2018 the year of “BYO” (build your own). Many of today’s most successful fast casual and quick service concepts are focused on customization. Blaze Pizza is one of the fastest growing chains in part because guests enjoy the ability to create a unique, freshly made pizza from a list of ingredients.
The result is a meal that reflects the patron’s individual preferences. In a way, guests are viewing menus more as lists of ingredients they can customize instead of fixed dishes.
How to Try It
Tap into another of the hottest 2018 food trends – the bowl concept – and create a BYO bowl section on your menu. The bowl trend is so popular that some restaurants are building their entire concept around it, like CORE Life Eatery with locations in the Northeast. At CORE, patrons can build their own broth, greens, or grain bowls.
If you’re an Italian restaurant, offer a BYO pasta bowl where patrons can choose from different pastas, sauces, and proteins. Sports bars and pubs can create BYO Nachos. Get creative. Then let guests get picky as they go all out for these 2018 food trends.
2. Digitally Enhanced Dining
Did you expect anything less? With 77 percent of Americans owning a smartphone, it’s no surprise that one of the major 2018 food trends revolves around a tech-enhanced dining experience. In fact, according to a recent National Restaurant Association survey, 79 percent of diners say technology increases convenience when eating out.
How to Try It
Switch to digital tablet menus. It’s easier and more affordable than you think. Digital menus can bring your menu to life with brilliant photos and more in-depth descriptions than you could fit on a print menu. Plus, you can put customization options on a digital menu – showing guests options they may not have even known about.
Digital menus are one of the 2018 food trends that can benefit your bottom line. You may see more upsells thanks to all the customization options. Plus, you’ll save on menu print costs.
3. Find Your Unicorn
The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino took America by rainbow-colored storm when it launched on April 19th. Most Starbucks locations sold out within days. Those who got their hands on the drink boasted – and posted – about it all over social media. While the unicorn trend seems to have peaked, the logic behind the limited-edition drink is going strong and should be on your 2018 food trends to-do list. Here’s how to execute it…
How to Try It
No, we don’t think unicorn burgers will be showing up on any 2018 food trends reports. Instead, challenge your chefs to create an indulgent, over-the-top dish or drink that fits with your concept. Promote it as a limited-time menu item whenever you want a boost in customer traffic.
Here’s how to create your own “unicorn” 2018 food trends: If you run a family restaurant, it could be a 10-flavor ice cream sampler. The “scoops” could be melon-ball size and arranged in a rainbow array (perfect for sharing on social media).
If you manage a sports bar, offer the spiciest possible chicken wings. Invite patrons to see if they can handle the heat by taking the limited-time chicken wing challenge (perfect for bragging about on social media!). Don’t forget to create a press release and promote your “unicorn.” Have fun with these 2018 food trends that focus on going above and beyond for your guests.
4. Food Costs Are Rising
As you know, the restaurant biz isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Rising food costs is one of the alarming 2018 food trends noted by experts across the foodservice industry.
How to Outsmart It
Yes, you can outsmart 2018 food trends revolving around rising costs while still delivering a great guest experience. Start by getting a grip on your food cost and applying one of these 11 profit-boosting menu secrets.
5. Gluten-Free Isn’t Going Anywhere
While diet fads come and go, gluten is sticking around. Less than 1 percent of the population has been diagnosed with celiac disease, yet more than double that number avoid gluten. Experts from consumer insights firm Hitwise have labeled gluten-free eating as a “steady riser” trend that continues to gain in popularity. That means gluten-free food items should be one of your 2018 food trends.
How to Try It
Notice a theme to our 2018 food trends list? It’s all about giving your guests options and easy ways to customize their experience with you. Offering simple substitutions is an easy way to cater to the gluten-free crowd. If you’re a pizza shop, be sure you have a gluten-free crust option.
You can even carry a gluten-free beer – just ask your distributor. The key with 2018 food trends that revolve around dietary preferences is to promote that you have these options. Also, put a “GF” symbol next to menu items that are gluten-free.
6. Get Granular and Go Plant-Based
Even those who aren’t gluten-free are hungry to try wheat alternatives. Ancient grains – most of which are gluten-free – will be one of the big 2018 food trends. Ancient grains include faro, quinoa, amaranth, and many more. They’re already trending as evidenced by making it on the Top 20 List in the 2017 What’s Hot Chef Survey from the National Restaurant Association.
One reason for 2018 food trends focused on ancient grains? Plant-based eating. This trend landed on the 2020 Vision Report from Nation’s Restaurant News. Ancient grains provide protein and a hearty, satisfying mouthfeel that add substance to meatless dishes. It’s not just vegetarians and vegans adapting plant-based eating habits. Many meat eaters are being urged to incorporate more leafy greens and nutritious grains into their diets.
How to Try It
Bring the ancient grain and plant-based 2018 food trends to your menu by updating a few of your sides and desserts. If you’ve been serving rice pilaf for years, why not swap in a cheddar broccoli quinoa side instead? Or, use an ancient grain blended flour in one of your desserts. Ancient grain flour has a slightly nutty flavor, so instead of trying to hide it – accentuate it in an almond brownie or praline pie recipe.
7. Cheers to Mocktails…Especially in January
Dry January has been trending in England for several years. In 2017, it began to catch on in the U.S. Many popular “clean eating” diets advocate removing alcohol as a way to jump start weight loss and healthy living (next on our list of 2018 food trends).
Expect to see guests asking for alcohol-free alternatives in January 2018, and beyond. Sometimes patrons just want a hand-crafted cocktail but not the alcohol – that’s where mocktails come in.
How to Try It
Using high quality ingredients, your bartenders can create delicious beverages for non-drinkers. Try a house-made lemonade, a refreshing fruit-infused water blend, or one of these 30 brunch-worthy mocktails.
8. Come Clean
In 2017, Panera made a pledge to only include 100% clean ingredients on their menus. You can plan on 2018 food trends to feature a continued focus on the origins of each ingredient. Organic ingredients also continue to be a perennial trend: A survey by the Organic Trade Association shows that the organic farming industry is booming, accounting for 5.3% of total food sales in America.
How to Try It
Don’t waste your time with these ingredient-based 2018 food trends unless you tell the customer! That’s the whole point. Alert guests on your menu which products are locally grown, from which farm, and if the ingredients are organic. Provide details on the origins of any dishes inspired by ethnic cuisine.
Take the 2018 food trends focused on transparency a step further: Seat patrons where they can see your chefs preparing their meal. This may even inspire them to order more as they watch chefs at work.
When tackling these 2018 food trends, it’s all about balance. You want to keep customer favorites on your menu while adding in trendy twists to keep things fresh.