Trend Watch 2017

2017 is almost here! Few businesses are as reactive to trends as restaurants. Every year restaurant consultants Baum + Whiteman put out a list of the biggest trends in restaurants.  To save you 21 pages of reading, we’ll boil it all down for you. But, if you have the time, go ahead and download the report here.

Food prices continue to fall
This isn’t good news either. While food costs are declining, wages and commercial rents will continue to rise. Grocery stores, with their smaller labor footprints and locked in leases, will be able to pass discounts along to consumers. Restaurants, however, will continue to raise prices in order to survive. The result is many consumers will pack lunch to the office and eat dinner at home. Restaurants will have to compete on more than price to survive – think hospitality, curated menus, and fancy cocktails.

Vegetables are the new kale
Kale became the menu cliché of 2016, but vegetables in general are finally getting the attention they deserve. Consumers ate less meat in 2016 (as claimed by 26% of consumers) and restaurants are paying attention. Expect to see vegetables presented as if they were meats: veggie charcuterie plates, vegetable of the day specials, and even vegetable-based “butcher shops.”

But meat is still king
Artisan butchers are on the rise – and unlike their carrot-cutting brethren they are emphasizing a wide range of animal-cuts. While the Farm to Table trend needs a refresh, consumers still want the air of authenticity to their dining choices. To this end, many restaurants are organizing themselves around butcher counters. While the concept isn’t new, it is gaining traction – especially since it creates an additional source of revenue for a food-based business. During the day, a restaurant can serve a small menu, but they can also sell a variety of meats and cuts directly to the consumer. Check out Butcher Bar in New York City for a great example of this growing trend.

Fast-Casual/Quick-Serve is still trending
This was a trend last year, and while some observers are becoming skeptical of its longevity (even Baum + Whiteman) there’s little reason to expect a downturn in fast-casual restaurants. The reason is simple: price. As food costs drop and labor costs rise operators are looking for more efficient restaurant models. Fast-casual provides a solution with small, streamlined models and lower operating costs.  The trend within a trend will be the rise of traditional-with-a-twist cuisine. Think Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville or Chi’lantro in Texas. Also, keep an eye on value-added concepts that would normally belong to retail: Salt & Straw and Rachel’s Ginger Beer are redefining what restaurants can be.

You got your restaurant in my retail…
We also break with Baum + Whiteman on this. The trend is non-food brands are opening bars and restaurants inside of their stores. B&W sees this as yet another threat to standalone concepts, but we’d venture to say there’s a lot of opportunities in this trend. As commercial rents continue to rise, it makes sense to find a way to get as much revenue out of a space as possible. Also, brick and mortar retailers have a need to compete with online retailers to keep shoppers coming back. The easiest way to differentiate yourself from Amazon? Provide a distinct experience. Tanner Goods in Portland, Oregon is also home to The Wayback – a small bar and DJ space. Retailers and restaurateurs will continue to team up in 2017 – think of the small café in the back of a store as the new food truck.

These are our highlights from this years Baum + Whiteman report. What food trends do you see coming in 2017?

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