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Technomic predicts 2011 foodservice trends


November 22, 2010
By Canadian Pizza

pzsideofpizzathumbnailNovember 22, 2010, Chicago, IL – Big changes are on the way for the foodservice industry, affecting everything from menus and in concept development to the competitive landscape, according to new research from Technomic.

The firm predicts that the following trends will emerge in 2011.

Action in adult beverages
As Americans decide they’re once again ready to celebrate, demand for “Mad Men” style retro cocktails, high-cachet gin and bourbon, craft beers and punch, including sangria, will grow. Cocktails with herbal and floral ingredients, skinny cocktails, and even more adult beverages in fast-casual eateries are coming in the New Year.

Beyond bricks-and-mortar Food trucks, facilitated by social media that notify foodies of their whereabouts, were an L.A. and Manhattan fad a year ago, but now they’re proliferating around the country. “Land-based” restaurants are using food trucks as brand extensions and catering aids. Food truck districts and rodeos are starting to appear and regulatory agencies are scrambling to keep up. Temporary or seasonal pop-up eateries and kiosks are also helping restaurants unmoor from their traditional storefronts.

Farmers as celebrities
The back-to-the-source mentality is sending farmers and producers into the spotlight. Restaurants will feature their celebrity suppliers by offering special menus, inviting them to comment on blogs, even hosting visits. More often, farmers and artisans will be saluted in highly detailed menu descriptions. More attention to the supply chain also means more attention to food safety, product traceability and local sourcing.

Social media and technology: evolutionary spurt
New technologies such as kiosk ordering, wine lists on iPads and tableside payment systems all have the potential to revolutionize operations. Couponing websites and location-based social media will grow and the apps fad will continue to evolve while facing new competition from developing formats and technologies. Front-of-house and back-of-house technologies, as well as social media are evolving so fast that rewards and risks are high. However, the biggest risk of all is failure to innovate.

Korean and beyond The Korean taco – an only-in-America synthesis of Korean-style fillings and a Mexican format – signals the rise of Korean barbecue and Korean food in general. Multicultural tacos with world ingredients, sometimes in surprising combinations, portable street food and small plates fromaround the planet will continue to gain popularity throughout 2011.

Frugality fatigue
Penny-pinching was a novelty when the recession began, but now it’s gotten old. Anyone who can afford it will dip back into luxury dining in 2011. Look for flashy high-end restaurants and some extravagant, indulgent specials even on staid menus. Meanwhile, the middle class will gravitate to reasonably priced but high-experience-value and thrill-a-minute concepts with memorable menus. Pricey full-service concepts will continue to push bar menus, bringing in new customers at a lower price point, and gastropubs will proliferate.

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How low can you go? Consumers will continue to demand price deals everywhere they eat. As food input prices heat up next year, sustaining the bottom line will continue to be a crucial issue for operators. Look for more restructuring of price deals, such as the “everyday low price” positioning favoured by retailers.

Carefully calibrated brand action
As the restaurant industry emerges from recession and capital spending picks up, we’ll see more fast-casual brand extensions by full-service restaurants and even non-restaurant brands, more ultra-niche eateries with narrowly focused menus and high-concept ambiance, and investment in brand refreshes and remodels rather than unit growth. New units will be smaller and sustainably built, with more efficient layouts. They will often be found in non-traditional locations.

Back to our roots The durable hunger for comfort food develops an appetite for home-style Southern fare, retro Italian, and gourmet donuts and popsicles for dessert. Family-style service formats and family-size portions that would look right at home in a Norman Rockwell print will also be popular next year.

New competition from c-stores
Retailers have been encroaching on restaurant turf for some time. In 2011, the hottest action will be among convenience store operators upgrading their foodservice, where margins are 40-60 per cent instead of the five per cent typical for gas. Consumers are responding positively to upgraded offerings, variety and ambiance.

Healthful vs. indulgent As American menu labeling requirements take effect in 2011, the issue of healthful vs. indulgent fare – on the menu and in menu descriptions – gets complicated. Look for more items and detailed descriptions on “healthy” menus, including gluten-free fare as well as “under x calories” items. Limited-time offers (including seasonal fare) will trend up, not only because they attract attention, but also because they don’t require posting nutrition data that consumers would rather not know. “Eating a little better” will translate into menu modifications such as slightly lower sodium and slightly more glamourous sea salt. “Eating better some of the time” will lead to more innovations like Meatless Mondays.

For more information, visit www.technomic.com.