7 Trends That Will Change the Foodservice Game in 2018

By 
Aimee Harvey, Managing Editor, Technomic

Crystal ball

CHICAGO -- From convenience stores to restaurant chains, obstacles and opportunities arise to shape where the larger foodservice industry is headed. As industry watchers contemplate the road ahead, key takeaways for restaurants also carry lessons and unique observations for c-stores to consider as they plot plans for growth.

Read on to uncover seven forward-looking trends from editors at our sister publication, Restaurant Business, and analysts from our research partner, Technomic. These trends are poised to influence foodservice developments throughout 2018 and beyond ...

1. Asian island cuisine

Asian island cuisine

The next progression of food trends coming from the Far East is Asian island fare. As momentum builds around Filipino foods, expect culinary influences from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to crop up. The sour, bitter and aromatic flavor profiles from these island nations take influence from mainland Asian and Europe, making them both familiar and exotic.

Food forecasts: Look for sambal, kaffir lime, Filipino adobo and Southeast Asian street foods to gain more favor.

2. Delivering a gut check

Gut check

Now that allergen-free foods are mainstream, restaurants are exploring the next health frontier: lower-intensity, gut-friendly menu items. There will be more incorporation of probiotic, prebiotic and anti-inflammatory ingredients into foods, such as tumeric, aloe and flaxseed. Plus, consumers can expect to see more hot and spicy flavors paired with tangy, fruity or sweet accents to lower the intensity of these flavors and bring out more balance and complexity to the taste buds.

3. Targeting off-premise

Takeout food

Expect to see a growing number of concepts redesigning to accommodate delivery and takeout, from second makelines to revamped order pickup areas, and separate drive-thrus for third-party and in-house delivery drivers. Growing grab-and-go competition from retailers will spur restaurant innovation around travel-friendly options and more heat-and-eat meals.

4. Data everywhere

Data

Technology is allowing restaurants to move beyond simple customization into a more detailed level of service: personalization. Data will drive virtually every aspect of restaurant operations, from personalized marketing appeals to hypercustomized menu suggestions. Look for consumers to become increasingly comfortable sharing personal data—especially as they discover it leads to personalized service.

5. Boomers are back

Baby Boomers

After years of focusing heavily on millennials, restaurants are entering into a renewed love affair with baby boomers. The industry will see more restaurants—especially casual-dining players that essentially grew up with boomers—to specifically court this population and its high disposable income, as Chili's and Applebee's recently have.

6. Workforce development gets highly tailored

Tailored workforce

To attract new demographics in a historically tight labor market, operators are developing personalized career ladders to help nontraditional restaurant workers find opportunities for advancement—even outside the restaurant's operations. More tools will be developed to help employers and employees set mutually beneficial goals and think beyond the next paycheck.

7. The labor faceoff

Labor faceoff

Restaurants can expect some head-scratching over a patchwork of competing policies, as restaurant employers get further tangled in the tug of war between federal and state governments over workplace rules and pay levels. Minimum wage laws, scheduling regulations and increased pressure on immigration policies will all play a role.