Restaurant Trends to Watch For

A look at the trends shaping fast casual and quick-service restaurants across the country…


1. Keep it fresh.

According to Baum + Whiteman: “a recent survey found that 36% of consumers worried about 'chemicals' in their food ... in another survey, 40% of consumers report it’s 'very important' that foods use all-natural ingredients, free of GMOs and artificial flavors or colors.” With a growing concern for health and nutrition, consumers are now demanding not only fresh, wholesome food, but also transparency from restaurants: from food sourcing to ingredients. Limited-service restaurants are starting to get out in front of the issue and make transparency a part of the ordering experience and a part of their brand.


2. Shopping and eating and shopping and eating.

Looking to increase their customers' 'dwell time' to boost sales, retailers like Whole Foods (hello, groceraunts!), Restoration Hardware, and even Urban Outfitters have entered the restaurant game. As retailers embrace catching customers by their appetites, restaurants will also start to embrace some of retail's sales strategies. As Aaron Allen put it: "Restaurants and grocery stores will continue to steal ideas from one another; with grocery stores adding more prepared foods and cafes and restaurants adding more retail items both in their own restaurants and on grocery store shelves."

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3. Going digital.

Because the restaurant industry is hyper competitive, with one of the highest failure rates of any industry, the concepts that leverage technology will have a decided competitive edge and the best unit economics. As Juan Martinez argues, "combat[ing] today's business challenges...includes the application of the best and most innovative technologies available during the design process [...and] proper implementation and use of store-level technology, such as self-ordering technologies (e.g. kiosks, smart phones, web, etc.) in the front of the house and production systems in the back of the house." Limited-service concepts are embracing the power of technology to drive revenue and cut costs, and self-ordering especially has taken a preeminent position in the minds of owners of giant chains and independents alike.


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