In one of the most fickle industries, keeping up with the latest restaurant trends without losing your own identity is key to survival. Fortunately for cafes and fast-casual businesses, the quick-serve model is outpacing more traditional sit-down restaurants.  Current trends also include adding more vegan options, using cannabis-infused products, and designing interiors and dishes to look “Instagram-able”.  

Stay ahead of the game in 2019 by making sure you’re aware of these five trends!

1. Custom food delivery and take out apps

Waiting in long lineups to pick up a meal, or even leaving the house to get food has become too much of a chore for us. For better or for worse, people expect their meals to arrive with as little effort as possible, which is why mobile ordering will make up 11% of quick-service restaurant sales by 2020.

Delivery and take-out apps are only going to keep growing in popularity, which is why restaurants might want to consider expanding their reach online if they haven’t already.

To avoid losing profits to third-party delivery services like UberEats, some companies are creating their own branded apps to take control of their delivery service. Custom take-out apps that sync with a point of sale are gaining popularity, as they cut down on customer wait time, and allow consumers to engage over mobile.

2. Less common International cuisines

As global travel is increasingly commonplace, and as videos of exotic cuisines become accessible with the swipe of a finger, palates are generally becoming more adventurous.

Ten years ago, people might have said they craved Chinese food. Now, more and more consumers are craving regional-specific Chinese food. Spicy Szechuan cuisine and Muslim Chinese dishes from Western China, as well as Central Asian food from the ‘stan regions, are popping up everywhere.

Russian and Nordic cuisines are also gaining speed, but one thing is certain: consumers want to experience culturally-authentic dishes with novel flavors.

3.  Gamification to drive more engagement

Firstly, what is Gamification? Gamification is a marketing practice that integrates websites, apps, and social media with simple games that motivate consumers to engage with the brand.

For example, a restaurant might give customers the chance to win a free coffee or meal by checking a code on the takeout package and entering the code online for a chance to win. Some companies have taken this to the next level, and have created on-brand games within their app or website that give users the chance to win meal discounts – driving repeat business and brand affinity.

Gamification is growing in popularity and is forecasted to become an $11.10 billion dollar market by 2020.

4. Green solutions

It’s hard to miss the headlines – climate change, ocean temperatures rising, air pollution, plastics suffocating the oceans – there’s no doubt that human consumption is harming the planet.

Whether you truly care about nature, or whether you just want to score points with your customers, incorporating green practices into your business is a must in 2019.

Packaging is a massive problem and accounts for a huge percentage of the waste in landfills. Consider using biodegradable packaging, replacing plastic straws with paper straws or pasta noodles, and coming up with ways to waste less in general. Partner with a local environmental charity that helps with waste management.

Finally, a simple way to reduce waste is to offer e-receipts instead of paper ones. You’ll save trees, and gain valuable customer data in the process.

5. More vegan and allergen-free alternatives

Veganism is on the rise whether it resounds with your target market or not. You don’t have to completely re-write your menu, but try offering substitutes such as Vegenaise (instead of mayo), nutritional yeast (instead of parmesan), almond milk, and premium meatless burgers. You won’t lose your core customers, and you’ll win over a vegan clientele.

Similarly, life-threatening food allergies are increasingly common. Indicate on your menu if something contains notorious allergens such as shellfish, nuts, dairy, or gluten. More importantly, train your staff to learn every ingredient on your menu, including foods that could possibly have trace amounts of allergens. Customers will appreciate this, and you could potentially avoid a fatal accident.

Your restaurant can keep up with the times without sacrificing what makes it unique. Perhaps you serve old-school Italian snacks that simply cannot be made gluten-free without seriously offending the food gods. Be that as it may, utilizing technology to drive sales will remain crucial to survival, as is understanding customer tastes and trends. Here’s to an amazing and profitable 2019!