Webinar Recap: 10 Bar and Restaurant Trends for 2020

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It’s the most wonderful time of year, if you’re into following the latest bar and restaurant trends. At year’s end, dozens of trends lists are released with experts proclaiming “what’s hot” in the foodservice biz.

Suffering from trend overwhelm? We’ve got your back. Our crew sorted through dozens of reports to identify common themes – along with bar and restaurant trends most likely to take off with the average guest. (No worries, you won’t find weird stuff like mushroom tea on this list.)

We shared these top 2020 trends on a December 19th webinar, and now we’re recapping all the magic you missed here…

Culinary-Focused Bar and Restaurant Trends 

1. Color Me Instagrammable: Hot Hues and “Notice Me” Food

You can blame (or thank) Instagram for what’s first on our list of bar and restaurant trends: When it comes to food and drinks, the brighter the better. After all, a vivid photo of a hot pink borscht soup or neon orange turmeric and carrot smoothie is more likely to get you noticed.

Brightly colored food showed up on bar and restaurant trends lists from Technomic to Yelp. What’s interesting is that most lists emphasized purple and blue hues. In fact, the 2020 Pantone Color of the Year is a rich, vibrant “classic blue.”

To capitalize on these cool colors, Technomic expects restaurants to experiment with naturally blue and purple foods including: spirulina, butterfly peas, purple broccoli and cauliflower, blue and purple potatoes, juneberries, and more.

P.S. If you serve breakfast, show you know your bar and restaurant trends by serving up an ombre stack of blueberry pancakes. It’s pure Instagram gold – or should we say, blue.

 2. What the Health? Wellness Continues to Influence Bar and Restaurant Trends

Customers are keeping an eye on their health, and they expect your menu to mirror their dietary preferences. Here’s how these bar and restaurant trends are playing out for 2020…

The “big 3” still reign. We’re talking about gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian, and organic. These are the buzzwords that continue to top bar and restaurant trends going into the next decade. Don’t ignore these 3 trends. For example, 8 in 10 millennials eat meat-free alternatives, so it’s time to get the Impossible Burger™ on your menu…STAT.

Listen, customers still want to indulge in delicious food. They just want to know that food is working hard for them…boosting immunity, providing a healthy dose of protein, or promoting a “healthy gut” (see #3 – kombucha – on this list of bar and restaurant trends). Be sure to talk up these wellness-boosting properties on your menu.

Last but not least, Yelp called out “healthy-swap comfort food” on their 2020 bar and restaurant trends list. For proof, they pointed out the rise in cauliflower-crust pizza. This ties in with functional food, as switching out flour for cauliflower gives customers a healthy dose of plant-based vitamins and fiber.

3. Buzzed Up Kombucha and Booze-Free Cocktails

Almost every list of bar and restaurant trends gave a shout out to kombucha, the fermented tea with a sour taste and fizzy mouthfeel. Kombucha is now becoming a star ingredient in upscale, alcohol-forward cocktails – from martinis to mojitos. Brands are also upping the alcohol content of kombucha itself to create “hard kombucha.” In fact, Yelp notes that searches for hard kombucha are up 377%.

Allan Sherwin, Senior Vice President of Research at the National Restaurant Association notes that customers are not opposed to spending “$10 to $15 for one of these (kombucha) drinks because of their supposed health benefits.”

While adding alcohol to everything from kombucha to seltzer appears on the lists of bar and restaurant trends for 2020, the opposite trend also showed up. Yes, removing booze from cocktails is a thing. A big thing. Mocktails will be a major trend in 2020, according to food consultant Jane Drummer.

Everyone from pregnant women to designated drivers, recovering alcoholics to those on a health kick, will appreciate if you add carefully crafted mocktails to your list of bar and restaurant trends in the new year.

4. Funky Fruits Sweeten Up Bar and Restaurant Trends

Once upon a time, fruit like kiwi and clementine oranges were considered “exotic.” Now, it’s time to make way for a new crop of obscure (but not for long) fruits as we explore 2020 bar and restaurant trends.

First up is jackfruit, which is already making waves among vegans and vegetarians. Instead of going sweet, this hearty fruit loaded with iron, calcium, and Vitamin B is used as a savory meat substitute in dishes such as mock BBQ pork. Jackfruit landed on Benchmark Hospitality’s Top 10 Bar and Restaurant Trends List for 2020.

Also on Benchmark’s trends list? Serving up different varieties of “basic” fruits. Focus on citrus as a simple way to tackle these fruity bar and restaurant trends. Instead of grapefruit, try pomelo – a bigger, slightly sweeter option. Or, up your lemon game with a sophisticated Meyer lemon, with hints of orange. Skip standard oranges and go for a burgundy-fleshed blood orange.

 5. CBD is Trending High on the Charts…

…But it’s one trend you should approach with caution. While CBD doesn’t contain THC (so it won’t get you high), it’s still not legal for use in food or beverages according to a June 2019 statement from the FDA.

So even though many states have legalized CBD, the federal government and the FDA aren’t on board. Add county and even municipal laws into the mix, and you’re playing with legal fire if you serve CBD-infused cocktails or desserts. Talk to a lawyer before capitalizing on CBD-focused bar and restaurant trends.

THE 2020 HOLIDAY CALENDAR

The ultimate resource for owners & managers.

What’s Big in Marketing Bar and Restaurant Trends

 6. Limited Time Offers Go Big Time

The marketing concept of the limited time offer (aka LTO) is far from new. However, it’s emerging as one of the key bar and restaurant trends for 2020. Essentially, LTOs rely on FOMO (fear of missing out). The offer itself could be a great deal, or it could be a special menu item. With just hours or days to take advantage of an LTO, customers are inspired to take action.

A great example of these limited-time bar and restaurant trends in action is the Popeyes chicken sandwich that took the nation by storm. The price wasn’t an issue, it was the fabled deliciousness of that fried chicken, pickle, and mayo sandwich. After a month of availability, Popeyes pulled the sandwich off the market – only to release it again in late fall.

Experts suggest the rise of LTO bar and restaurant trends is due to the fact that operators want to attract more people INTO their place of business. LTOs are proving to be the antidote to #8 on this list of bar and restaurant trends: the rise in delivery.

You can also use affordable digital signage software to promote “hyper” LTOs on your TVs. It could be a flash sale on an appetizer, a surprise happy hour later in the night, or a 2-for-1 special.

7. Micro Influencers Have Maximum Impact

A few years ago, influencer marketing was one of the big bar and restaurant trends. A social media celebrity would talk up a product or brand, for a fee, of course. Nowadays, customers are getting tired of the ubiquitous influencer who has thousands, if not millions of followers (many of which were purchased). Customers know it’s a paid situation, and far from authentic. Plus, big influencers can’t personally engage with all of their followers, so it’s not rewarding to the customers.

That’s where micro influencers come in – and that’s who we predict will be one of the major 2020 bar and restaurant trends. You probably know 2-3 micro influencers already. These are big fans of your bar or restaurant, who have a decent-sized social media following on Instagram or Facebook. Pull them aside and ask: would they be interested in doing a few sponsored posts about your biz?

Or, maybe there’s a local blogger or Instagrammer who’s a major foodie and fan of craft cocktails. Would she want to host a series of cocktail-making demos with your bartenders?

Smooth Operations in 2020: What’s on the Horizon?

8. Delivery and Takeout Continue to Dominate Bar and Restaurant Trends

It seems that more and more people prefer to stay home and dine in their PJs. And it’s easier than ever thanks to GrubHub, DoorDash, and the like. It seems that as we head into 2020, foodservice managers are giving people what they want. Technomic reports that 78% of operators consider off-premises sales – so takeout, delivery, catering, and even pop-up events – to be a “strategic priority” in the new year.

One untapped area of growth that your restaurant may want to capitalize on is the rise in demand for meal kits. Currently, most consumers get their meal kit fix through the mail, from national companies like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. Yet, recent National Restaurant Association research found that 41% of customers would buy meal kits from a local restaurant if they could. Now is the time to tap into the off-premises bar and restaurant trends…

 9. Dining as Experience

If #8 on this bar and restaurant trends list has you envisioning a parking lot full of cars – waiting for takeout – you’ll like #9. On-premises dining isn’t dead. You just need to enhance the experience. And a little effort goes a long way if you can incorporate key bar and restaurant trends…

Let’s begin with the most obvious way to revitalize the dining experience: make it more enjoyable! It’s no secret that live trivia is one of the top bar and restaurant trends year after year. Customers love it, and it’s a great way to revitalize weeknight, on-premises business. Or, make trivia available on-demand through your TVs and a free app that customers can download.

Another way operators are enhancing the on-premises experience? Through big data. The rise of data made it on the Food Channel’s bar and restaurant trends list for 2020. Specifically, the Food Channel predicts that more businesses will use data they’ve gathered about you to curate a personalized guest experience. Capitalizing on these bar and restaurant trends is made possible by many software and app integrations.

To make the most of these bar and restaurant trends, start with your POS. Most modern POS systems can integrate with guest management and reservation systems like SevenRooms or OpenTable, along with loyalty apps. So waitstaff could potentially see what customers order, where they prefer to sit, and how much they spend – before they even walk up to the host stand.

The Food Channel also gave a nod to the rise of bend-over-backwards customer service as one of the experience-based bar and restaurant trends of 2020. They referenced initiatives like Domino’s Pizza guarantee and how many big chains are investing in their employees as a roundabout way of improving customer service. From culinary tuition reimbursement (at Chick-fil-a) to a 4-day work week (at Steak Shack), these chains believe that happier employees make for happier customers through better service.

 10. Sustainability Goes Mainstream

Today, many customers are hyper-aware of how businesses are addressing issues like food waste and climate change. So while sustainability is last on our list of bar and restaurant trends, it’s something to ignore. Here are quick ways to act sustainably in 2020:

When Benchmark Hospitality covered the top bar and restaurant trends for 2020, ugly, misshapen, imperfect produce was a key fad. What’s that got to do with sustainability? Everything, considering 40% of food made in the U.S. goes uneaten because of imperfections (according to Benchmark). Check out Imperfect Foods or Misfits Market, which ship ugly produce to consumers and foodservice businesses nationwide. Or, just ask your local farmer if they’ll sell you their uglies. Also, oddly-shaped produce is a big trend on Instagram so you can use it to boost social engagement, too.

Another way to capitalize on these eco-focused bar and restaurant trends is to watch your “waste.” Food waste is a major concern for patrons – and for your bottom line. This is one of those bar and restaurant trends definitely worth implementing. If you haven’t already, use the FIFO system for all perishable foods. Do a training session on chef and cook portion control. Talk to your POS system provider to see if they offer a “smart” digital inventory tool that can alert you if you’re placing too-large of food or beverage orders. Consider a compost program. And check out these 10 ways to reduce food waste in your restaurant.

Package makes perfect. As we noted early on in this list of bar and restaurant trends, takeout is booming. But customers aren’t cool with all that packaging waste. So, what can you do? Talk with your distributor about swapping in recyclable or biodegradable plant-based containers. Ask about wood-fiber utensils and avoid plastic whenever possible.

By the way, this is not the time to be humble, if you do a good eco-friendly deed…promote the heck out of it on social media, with signage, anything!

Now that’s a wrap on the top 10 bar and restaurant trends for 2020. From all of us at Buzztime, cheers to a prosperous new year!

Dec 19, 2019