Analyst firm Technomic has gazed into its crystal ball and outlined the seven hot trends that the foodservice industry should watch out for in 2020.
Here are its “hot-button” predictions for food, flavor, operations and consumer attitudes over the next 12 months.
Technomic Trend 1: Cool Colors Heat Up
Following the hype of yellow turmeric, orange wine, red chile crisp and other warm-color foods, it is now seeing shades of trending ingredients cool off. Greens such as new rabes and cresses and new lettuces like celtuce, kale hybrids and komatsuna will pile up on plates, as familiar leaf vegetables, sea greens, peas and absinthe take over cocktails.
In addition, spirulina and butterfly pea will bring the blues, while trending mauve mouthfuls will include purple variations of common vegetables and herbs such as corn, broccoli, kale, snap peas, basil and potatoes, as well as orach, ume and juneberries, the company predicts.
Technomic Trend 2: The Year of the Fad
Technomic says that restaurants will increasingly menu wow-factor, uber-limited-time offers to cause media frenzy with fare that’s either expensive, laborious, hard to acquire from suppliers or so off-the-wall they know the enthusiasm won’t last.
What this means is that we’ll progressively see operators – even large chains – jumping on fads instead of waiting for trends as they have in the past. Asian cheese tea, huitlacoche (corn smut), edible insects and technically illegal tonka beans and CBD are expected to find momentum.
Technomic Trend 3: New Forces of Nature
As the plant-forward movement carries on, operators will need to look to new natural resources to keep menus exciting. Previously overlooked parts of familiar plants, such as beet greens, sweet potato leaves and avocado blossom, will get attention as a form of waste reduction, Tehnomic thinks.
It adds that another sustainable initiative – seaweed – will make waves not just in snacks but in desserts and drinks, while sea beans find interesting applications.
Technomic Trend 4: Eco-Everything
Tehnomic says: “Sustainability is more than a menu initiative, it’s emerging as part of the foodservice industry’s new circular economy, evolving from a linear approach of create-use-recycle to create-use-reuse-sustain.”
Upcoming efforts will call for reusable cup programs; portion-controlling dispensers to limit overuse and waste; strawless lids, smaller napkins and wood-fiber utensils; traceable sourcing of paper products; and more investment into compostable packaging that cycles back into the soil, it anticipates.
Technomic Trend 5: Locking into Lifestages
It’s becoming more crucial for the industry to recognize the various lifestages – everything from reaching legal drinking age to parenting to retirement – that each consumer cluster is currently experiencing, according to Technomic.
The health, service, quality and technology needs of an older boomer or millennial consumer may vary from those of their younger counterparts, just as social responsibility, menu innovation and pricing thresholds may carry greater importance among younger Gen Z versus older Gen Z consumers. Going forward, Technomic says the savviest foodservice companies will quickly pivot and develop a more strategic voice to reach specific subgroups within each generation.
Technomic Trend 6: Offsetting Off-Premise
With at-home delivery occasions booming, Tehnomic expects more operators employ creative means to drive in-store traffic, from over-the-top LTOs and dine-in-only BOGO meals to promoting loyalty/subscription-based rewards that require frequent visitation.
Its latest research shows that 78% of operators consider off-premise sales to be a “strategic priority”, but the traffic battle in 2020 will also bring on a flurry of counteractive efforts by operators.
Technomic Trend 7: The Pre-Recession Jitters
Technomic notes that while Americans may be working – in fact, heading into the close of 2019, the unemployment rate fell to a 50-year low of 3.5% – but caution is beginning to creep into their spending behavior. Higher gas prices may soon affect transportation costs, as well as restaurant visitation and purchase decisions, in 2020. It expects a back-to-basics mentality to bubble up, as consumers increasingly trade down to lower-priced occasions across foodservice segments. “And, in response, operators who’ve already learned the hard lessons of 2008 will communicate a more direct value story,” it adds.