Food for thought: New ways to engage with today’s diners

According to We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: Navigating the Unfamiliar Landscape of Today’s Hospitality Industry, the 12th edition of its trends report, af&co., a leading boutique restaurant consulting firm says, “The greatest challenge facing the [hospitality] industry is that…operators must find new ways to reach and engage with guests in a constantly changing world.”

Andrew Freeman, af&co founder, says, “We’re seeing very significant changes in how people are dining and what they are choosing to eat. Our hospitality trend predictions will encourage restaurants to think and act boldly in a new and unfamiliar world.”

Here are some trends identified in the new report:

Food Trend of the Year: Vegan goes Viral.

Veganism has come into its own, says Freeman, it is “no longer an obscure subset of vegetarianism.” Don’t be preachy about it, he warns, and don’t sacrifice “flavor or presentation.”

Dessert of the Year: Churros 2.0

Who doesn’t love fried dough? Freeman says the “sugar-dusted dough of the original creation is giving inspiration to new and delicious hybrid churro desserts and dishes including waffles, croissants and ice cream sandwiches.”

Spirit of the Year: No Spirit.

Freeman says, “We’re getting serious about non-alcoholic drinks!” But, he adds, “Don’t call them mocktails—we’re talking zero proof, N/A, spirit free, and non-alcoholic drinks.”

People Before Profit:

“Companies are finding ways to be more aware of how work integrates into their employees overall physical and mental health,” Freeman says. He adds, “Employers are supporting their staff with more than just a paycheck.” It’s about creating an environment that is comfortable and conducive to the well-being of employees and guests.

Also of note: the “cuisine of the year” is Laotian; the “dish of the year is Jerusalem Bagels, which, says Freeman, aren’t really bagels, butsofter and more bread-like and used for dipping.” Multi-cultural cuisine mashups will be increasingly popular “as Americans assimilate and adopt tastes and flavors from immigrant communities.”

Food delivery is growing 2-3 times faster than on-premises restaurant sales and expected to outperform on-site sales next year.

If you want to know more Freeman will present a webinar on Thursday, November 21 at 10:00 am PST/1:00 pm EST and Tuesday, December 3 at 12:30 pm PST/ 3:30 pm EST.


Vegan food stock photo by Magdanatka/Shutterstock