There are a ton of buzzworthy trends hitting the service industry this year. From over-the-top garnishes to the rise of the pop-up venue and everything in between, it seems that staying on top of evolving customer needs while trying to keep up with millennial preferences is a tricky but necessary part of remaining relevant.
We’ve rummaged through all of the food and beverage industry trends hitting the streets in 2018 and came up with our top five. If you haven’t already adopted these trends, now is a good time to start.
1. Locally sourced everything
This trend began its rise in 2017, and, according to the National Restaurant Association, is continuing its reign into 2018. Restaurants and bars that advertise their locally sourced meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, and even spirits and beer have opened on virtually every city and suburban street. We’re becoming more aware of the items we choose to purchase at the grocery store and cook at home, so why not expect the same out of our local restaurants. We like the idea that everything on our plate or in our glass came from our own community and didn’t have to travel across the country to get there. It also reduces our environmental footprint by scaling down the number of resources it takes to get to us while supporting local business owners in the process. Of course, locally sourcing your ingredients has its limitations, climate being a big one. So choose your locally sourced ingredients based on the seasons and mix them with items you sourced from other environmentally sound methods.
As more and more consumers are turning to a plant-based diet, more and more restaurants are creating menu items featuring innovative and worthy meat, fish, and dairy opponents. Even McDonald’s has rolled out a vegan burger in select countries, while pizza conglomerate Pizza Hut is testing out vegan cheese in England. Why is this happening? Because again we’re more aware of what we’re putting into our bodies, thanks to the recent rise of documentary films, books, and literary articles examining the effects that animal byproducts have on our bodies. While the truth behind this subject is still up for debate, the trend is clear: plant-based options in 2018 will have a viable impact on the restaurant industry.
3. Bars within bars
Bars within bars is the modern version of the speakeasy, and they’re pretty easy to pull off. Venues designate a second bar space in their restaurant: a more intimate, themed gathering spot. It’s not hidden or a secret like the classic speakeasy and in most cases doesn’t have a camouflaged, restricted entry. We’re talking casual eateries with sultry subterranean evil twins. A one-stop-shop to please all tastes in a single multi-personality venue.
4. Low-ABV cocktails
The influx of low alcohol by volume cocktail options is no secret. We see them listed on nearly every cocktail menu we come into contact with. There are a few reasons why this change is hap- pening. One is we’re sick of the dreaded hangover. We want to go out and enjoy a few drinks with friends but don’t want to wake up the next morning with a dry mouth and aching head. There’s also the rise of the aperitif. What once was reserved for pre-meal stimulation is now the headliner in a bevy of delicious anytime cocktails. Bid farewell to your old standbys such as gin and vodka and say hello to your new BFFs, Amaro, Aperol, Vermouth, and Pisco to name a few. If your cocktail menu doesn’t pay tribute to these showstoppers yet, it’s time to start. The future is calling and it’s delicious.
5. Late-night menus
How many times have you gone to a bar after midnight for “one last drink” and ended up staying until close wishing the entire time they had at least french fries for you to munch on? “At least a hundred times,” is a common answer. Late night bar dwellers rejoice! Our last 2018 trend should ease your pain. More and more restaurants and bars are offering up late night menus. Although it may seem like an obvious addition to some, the truth behind pulling it off isn’t always easy. There are staffing issues to solve and the question of what to serve. Do you continue serving your full menu or move into a smaller, easier-to-pull-off late night snack menu? However you decide to do it, the important thing is you’re doing it. Keep the customers coming into the wee hours of the morning and keep them full and most importantly, happy.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Tripleseat’s Seated magazine, Spring 2018 issue.