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Buzztime - Business Bar Trivia by Buzztime

The new year’s arrival means a fresh start – and a new set of trends. So, which 2018 bar and restaurant trends are worth trying? We did the work for you. The 18 trends were selected with your bottom line in mind. Each one can improve guest satisfaction, boost sales, and streamline your operation. Now, let’s tackle the trends…

How the 2018 Bar and Restaurant Trends Were Selected

No one has a crystal ball. But these trusted sources come pretty close to hitting the mark:

  • Trusted publications like the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot Chef Survey, Nation’s Restaurant News, Beverage Industry
  • Major news media outlets
  • Evidence from the nearly 3,000 Buzztime bars and restaurants we work with every day
  • Identifying trends on the rise in late 2017

3 Major Themes of 2018 Bar and Restaurant Trends: Custom, “All About Me,” and Tech

1) Customization

One thing is crystal clear: 2018 bar and restaurant trends emphasize the “custom” in customer. Guests want the power to create their ultimate meal or drink – without any side eye from your servers.

2) The Me Generation

It’s all about catering to the customer’s needs. Going above and beyond for your guests will pay off. Big time.

3) Tech Takeover

We’re officially in the IoT era. IoT stands for the “Internet of Things.” Tech touches almost every one of the top 2018 bar and restaurant trends.

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Top 2018 Bar and Restaurant Trends: Food & Beverage

4) The Year of BYO: Build Your Own

Guests are getting choosier. They’re eager to build their own meals (BYO). While this may irk your chefs, guests will love you for it. When it comes to 2018 bar and restaurant trends, customers are increasingly viewing menus as a chance to select ingredients – NOT as a list of pre-set dishes and drinks.

For proof of these BYO 2018 bar and restaurant trends, look to fast-growing chains like Blaze Pizza. Blaze Pizza’s entire concept is built around customization. Or, take a cue from Buffalo Wild Wings – guests love selecting from boneless or bone-in wings and dozens of spices and sauces.

How to Try It

  • BYO Bowls: Poke bowls…broth, greens, or grains bowls…pasta bowls
  • BYO Cocktails: Guests select from list of house-made infusions and artisan spirits
  • Bring in restaurant tablets that show guests a digital version of your menu including all extras, custom options, and add-ons

5) Find Your Unicorn

The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino launched in the spring of 2017 – and sold out within days. It became a visual status symbol – in the real world and online. The neon purple, blue, and pink colors made it an eye-catching Instagram sensation. To tap into social media based 2018 bar and restaurant trends, create your own unicorn…something guests can’t wait to show off.

How to Try It

  • Stay within your concept, but take one menu item to extreme – it’s ok if it’s priced to match!
  • Make it “brag-worthy” and photogenic: will it look good on Instagram?
  • Ultimate Manhattan with the coveted Pappy Van Winkle Whiskey, gourmet bitters, serve in special glassware
  • Rainbow ice cream sampler: 12 bite size scoops of ice cream displayed in a rainbow

6) Gluten-Free is Sticking Around

Consumer insights firm Hitwise labeled gluten-free eating a “steady riser” trend. That means it’s one of the 2018 bar and restaurant trends that continues to build momentum. Don’t stop with gluten-free. Capitalize on other 2018 bar and restaurant trends that revolve around “lifestyle” diets: paleo, vegan, organic.

How to Try It

  • Carry a gluten-free beer – ask your distributor or a local brewer
  • Put a “GF” symbol next to menu items that are gluten-free, “V” for Vegan, etc.

7) Street Foods Going Strong

Look to the streets when planning your menu. Street foods are one of the top 2018 bar and restaurant trends. In America, that means nachos, corn dogs, and gyros. Don’t roll your eyes! Challenge your chef to come up with a gourmet twist. Think house-made sausage corn dogs with a trio of dipping sauces.

Think globally with street food 2018 bar and restaurant trends. Guests are hungry for authentic, ethnic flavors like Middle Eastern za’atar – a spice taking the culinary world by storm. As an added bonus, street foods are ideal for happy hour and small plate menus.

How to Try It

    • Say Olé to Rosé: Mexican street foods paired with different rosé wines
    • Create a street-food inspired small plate happy hour menu

8) Craft Brew Mania Continues

Craft beer isn’t just for college bros. From women to baby boomers, everyone is sipping on small batch brews. Since 2016, craft beer has taken off with local breweries popping up across America in 2017. We predict craft beer will stay strong as one of the standout 2018 bar and restaurant trends. Craft beer can be your unicorn if you bring in “rare” beers – it’s a status symbol.

How to Try It

  • Educate yourself on the latest craft beer terms and trends
  • Launch a “Hoppy Hour” or craft beer enthusiast meet up
  • Host tap takeovers to create a buzz when bringing in rare brews

9) Artisan, Small Batch Spirits a Big Deal

Show me the way to the next whiskey bar. Like craft beer, small batch whiskeys and ryes are key 2018 bar and restaurant trends.

How to Try It

  • Picklebacks: Small whiskey pours paired with house-made pickles
  • Offer a few expensive, status-symbol small batch spirits

Be the Main Event! 2018 Bar and Restaurant Trends Focused on Events

10) Go Live!

Go beyond hiring a band. Get creative with live events in 2018. Topping the list of 2018 bar and restaurant trends are live events built around an “experience” – not just a night out. Guests are thirsty for knowledge. They want to either show off their smarts, or learn something new.

How to Try It

  • Try Trivia LIVE, it includes everything needed to host live trivia yourself
  • Host a Paint and Sip night: guests leave with their own masterpiece.
  • Invite a local artist to perform live paintings

11) Show Your Heart

When analyzing 2018 bar and restaurant trends related to events, one theme kept appearing. Guests want you to show love for causes they care about. In fact, 72 percent of restaurant patrons recommend venues that support a good cause.

How to Try It

  • Each month, let guests vote on a local charity to receive 10% of your sales on one night
  • Sponsor a charity event, or join a walk/race – your business will gain visibility at the event

Marketing 2018 Bar and Restaurant Trends Everyone is (Snap)Chatting About

12) Snapchat Not Just for Teens

Try Snapchat! It’s a snap to learn using these 10 tips. Plus, it’s a MUST if you want to attract millennials: the latest studies show that over 60 percent of Americans ages 13 to 34 use it. Put Snapchat on your list of 2018 bar and restaurant trends to try. You can thank us later.

How to Try It

  • Sign up for Snapchat and start using it ASAP
  • Create a “geofilter” – a photo overlay that appears when guests near or in your venue

13) Automation Everything

Automation has arrived to marketing world. That’s good news because it means major time- and cost-savings for you. Plus, it makes marketing more personal for guests. With automation – one of the fastest growing 2018 bar and restaurant trends – you set up “rules” then marketing software automates the rest.

How to Try It

  • Send automatic emails when guests join your list, when it’s their birthday, etc. You can do this using MailChimp for free – or for a low monthly cost
  • Turn TVS into eye-catching digital signage that automatically changes by daypart and day of the week

14) Get App Happy

According to a 2017 Pew Research study, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. From their beloved devices,
they access 9 mobile apps a day and over 35 per month on average. Now, it’s easier than ever to launch an app for your restaurant or bar. Start with a loyalty app. A 2017 VISA study revealed that 57 percent of smartphone users want loyalty apps on their phone.

How to Try It

  • Launch a loyalty program app using these best practices
  • Explore Appie Pie – an affordable program to build your own app
  • Integrate your loyalty app with your POS system for rich customer insights

Tech-Focused 2018 Bar and Restaurant Trends

15) Free Wi-Fi 2.0

Guests want free wi-fi. You know that. But a poor experience makes 83 percent of guests complain – and 1 in 3 won’t return according to Ruckus Wireless. Make free wi-fi a priority on your list of 2018 bar and restaurant trends to tackle.

How to Try It

  • Upgrade your wi-fi…ASAP using these wi-fi tips for restaurants
  • Hire an IT company to set up a wireless mesh that ensures 100% wi-fi access in your building
  • Use 3rd party access software: requires a guest’s email to access wi-fi – you can automatically build your email list

16) Customer-Facing Dining Technology

Give the people what they want: convenience. Nearly 8 in 10 guests believe tech improves convenience according to a National Restaurant Association Survey. Bring convenience tableside with restaurant tablets that integrate with your POS system. It’s the best way to increase efficiency, delight guests – and tap into one of the biggest 2018 bar and restaurant trends.

How to Try It

  • Give guests the ability to order from a digital menu and securely pay on handheld restaurant tablets
  • Guests don’t have to wait for a server, easily split bills, can check out on their time
  • Bottom line benefits: faster table turn, servers cover more tables, accurate orders

Want to explore 2018’s restaurant tech trends further? Check out this infographic from Eat App!

Décor and Atmosphere 2018 Bar and Restaurant Trends

17) The Handmade Tale

House-made is one of the biggest 2018 bar and restaurant trends – it’s featured in 5 of the top 20 National Restaurant Association culinary trends. Now, integrate the hand-made concept into your restaurant décor with hand-crafted accents.

How to Try It

  • Serve beer flights on hand-carved wooden platters
  • Get rustic! Serve appetizers on cutting boards
  • Source from local artisans: potters, woodworkers
  • Serve coffee in hand-made cups

18) Instant Update with Fresh Greenery

Pantone releases a “color of the year” and it always hits the mark. But it usually takes another year or so for the trendiest color to catch on. Case in point: millennial pink was predicted as a hot Pantone color in 2016, and it was 2017’s “it” color. For 2018 bar and restaurant trends related to décor, incorporate the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year: Greenery. It’s a fresh, natural green hue.

How to Try It

  • Bright yet natural, use succulents and ferns
  • Paint a green accent wall
  • Use green napkins or as accent color on menus

When it comes to 2018 bar and restaurant trends, no need to reinvent the wheel. A little trendiness goes a long way. Never abandon the traditions that guests know and love you for – like favorite menu items. Stay true to you. The secret of mastering 2018 bar and restaurant trends is to blend them with timeless elements. Cheers to the New Year!