30 Must-Know Restaurant Trends for 2018

Mounting competition, labor and regulatory challenges, as well as faltering foot traffic made for a tricky year in the restaurant industry. But 2017 also marked the rise of innovation: widespread self-order adoption, a proliferation of delivery and carry-out options, and hyper-targeted restaurant marketing tactics, to name a few.

Looking ahead, 2018 brings all sorts of challenges and exciting trends to the table - literally. Take a look below for the top food, technology, health, and operational trends to look forward to in 2018. 


Menu Trends

1. Edible flowers. "Plates will be abloom with the added colour of edible flowers." (Source)

2. Flavorful Coffee. "Expect cold brew coffee to be augmented with more flavor ranging from hazelnut to lavender." (Source)

3. Detroit-style pizza. “Detroit pizza has thick crust in a square shape. The style is starting to emigrate to other areas of the country like Denver and New York City.” (Source)

4. Middle Eastern-inspired food. “Spices such as turmeric, harissa, cardamom, and za’atar will take front row seats.” Time to experiment with exotic flavor profiles. (Source)

5. Street foods. Easy to eat and exciting to try, street foods from all over the world are expected to continue to rise in popularity. (Source)

6. Food Nostalgia. “We’ll see more ‘food nostalgia’ in the form of refined uses of tater tots, meatloaf, deviled eggs, chicken nuggets, edible cookie dough and Pop Rocks.” (Source)

7. Aloha to Hawaiian food. “Poke bowls are everyday food in Hawaii – essentially sushi without the fussy presentation.” This year they will likely “cross over into the mainstream.” (Source)

8. Rolled ice cream. What’s that? “Liquid ice cream is poured onto a cold slate, which causes it to freeze; meanwhile it’s chopped and rolled by hand and then served in a cup with various toppings.” (Source)

9. Unexpected breakfast. “Brunch seems to be the only meal millennials want to eat on weekends, so it’s fitting that restaurants are coming up with new twists on old breakfast classics […] Restaurants are turning to recipes with an ethnic flare like chorizo scrambled eggs and coconut milk pancakes.” (Source)

10. Meatless burgers. “The meatless burger’s appeal is all thanks to heme, a molecule that gives meat its pink color, makes it bleed, and gives it its flavor.” (Source)


Technology Trends

11. Sensors, everywhere. Sensors will monitor everything from when the refrigerator door opens and closes to patterns of how staff and guests use space. This will allow restaurants to let data drive more efficiency than ever before. (Source)

12. The year of the kiosk. Having gained considerable steam in 2017, self-order kiosks are predicted to become the new norm in fast casual and quick-serve restaurants in 2018. (Source)

13. Food talking tech. Watch out for delivery competition. “We can look forward to more voice-operated gadgets such as Google Home and Alexa to record and order your [grocery] shopping lists.” (Source)

14. Advanced data mining. “Data will drive virtually every element of restaurant operations, from personalized marketing appeals to hypercustomized menu suggestions and ultra-efficient kitchen design loaded with ‘smart’ data-gathering equipment.” (Source)

15. More personalization. “With all of the online ordering options, generated personal accounts, enhancements in point-of-sale, and niche driven restaurant concepts, expect to see more build-your-own options, personalized service, and POS systems that will recognize the customer and make menu suggestions based on their previous order history.” (Source)

15. Facial recognition. With restaurants like Malibu Poke, Which Wich and UFood Grill embracing facial recognition in 2017, 2018 is poised to be the year that the technology takes off. (Source)

16. Smart cooking tech. “New types of equipment will be able to connect with your smartphone, allowing you and your chefs to control the temperature and cooking method remotely, ensuring that your slow-roasted pork or other recipes are cooked perfectly.” (Source)

17. Geo-targeted marketing. Using Bluetooth Low Energy technology, beacons allow “for precise geo-marketing that requires almost nothing from its target audience. They don’t need to conduct a search to be fed an ad, and they don’t need to open your app or permit location services.” The technology – paired with apps – is expected to become pervasive in 2018. (Source)

18. Full-scale automation. With concepts like Spyce Kitchen set to open in 2018, this is likely the year we see how fully-automated restaurant operations will operate.

19. Enhanced delivery tech. Soon, delivery systems will be able to notify guests when their food is being prepared, when it leaves the restaurant, and when it’s arriving at their door, all in real-time. (Source)


Health Trends

20. Gut-friendly foods. Restaurants are going to “incorporate more probiotic, prebiotic, and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as aloe, turmeric, flaxseed, and skyr to improve digestion.” (Source)

21. Veggie-centric meals. With health consciousness on the rise, expect to see more veggies on plates in 2018. (Source)

22. Non-alcoholic drinks. “House-made sodas, fresh juices and other booze-free drinks, often with health claims, are helping to drive up check averages.” (Source)

23. Bubbly drinks. “Hydration just got a whole lot easier with the bubbly beverage trend. These are projected to be the new ‘it’ drink this year, and for good reason. They are more flavorful than plain water and are lower in added sugar than sodas.” (Source)

24. Specialized teas. “Sales of herbal and green tea, in particular, continue to rise for consumption at home, so it’s likely that the small number of tea ‘bars’ that we’ve seen popping up may also start to proliferate on the high street.” (Source)


Restaurant Operations Trends

25. Maximized efficiency. “Expect to see growing numbers of concepts redesigning to accommodate delivery and takeout, from second makelines to revamped order pickup areas and separate drive-thrus for delivery drivers, both third-party and in-house.” (Source)

26. More convenience. Anticipate competition heating up with more drive-thrus, delivery, and curb-side pickup options popping up at full-service restaurants. (Source)

27. Food transparency. “In a survey conducted by Mintel, 74% of U.S. Millennials stated that they wished food companies were more transparent with their product manufacturing. That leads to one of this year’s major trends, where labels for items such as GMO-free, responsibly grown and raised, and Fair Trade (to name a few) will appear on more products throughout 2018.” (Source)

28. Reduction in food waste. “Whole Foods names reducing waste by using the whole vegetable — root to stem — as one of its top food trends for 2018. This could give us more foods like pickled watermelon rind, beet-green pesto and broccoli-stem slaw.” (Source)

29. Keeping it local. Restaurants are increasingly going to go after locally-sourced meats, sea food, and produce. (Source)

30. Robust workforce development plans. “To attract new demographics in a historically tight labor market, operators are developing highly tailored career ladders, training programs and education opportunities as counters to the perception that restaurant jobs are a dead end.” (Source)


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