5 Foodservice Predictions for the Coming Year

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Tasked with writing one of the first VantagePoint blogs this year, I can’t help but feel fixed between recapping 2016 and forecasting 2017.

Being more inclined to look forward than look backward, I’m drawn to the articles that speak to the trends and changes we will see in the coming year. From a foodservice industry perspective, there’s a lot to consider.

Here are five predictions for 2017, rooted in insights from trade and business media or current events that speak to growing trends:

  1. Cash is on its way out.

Sweetgreen recently announced that all 64 of its locations will no longer accept cash, beginning in 2017. In addition to safety and sanitary benefits, there is also a potential labor savings, with Sweetgreen citing that employees can perform 5 to 15 percent more transactions every hour when they don’t have to handle money. If Sweetgreen’s experiment is successful, this practice may become more mainstream, capitalizing on the growing popularity of paying via smartphone.

  1. Customers will put greater pressure on chains to ‘clean up’ food.

From artificial flavors to antibiotics, chains are eliminating selected ingredients in response to consumer preference for cleaner food. McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Burger King all made related moves in 2016. Despite the supply chain and equipment challenges this trend can present, we can anticipate more announcements of this type as the healthier food movement continues.

  1. Delivery changes the game.

Convenience is a high priority for consumers, and restaurants will need to accommodate a larger percentage of their business going to delivery orders. These accommodations will be made in terms of equipment needs and packaging considerations, as well as increased marketing efforts focused on enticing customers to leave their homes and dine at full-service restaurants.

  1. Operators will try to find the perfect balance for using technology.

Technology has the potential to be a true asset for a restaurant or other foodservice operation, offering flexibility, efficiency and labor savings. The challenge, however, is to maintain a positive guest experience without technology oversaturation or making costly investments that don’t provide a valuable return. Finding the right mix of technology that integrates well into kitchens of today — and allows them to plan for the future — will be top of mind for many corporations and operators in 2017.

  1. Breakfast will continue to boom.

Expansion into all-day breakfast has had a significant impact on the industry, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. In addition to operations’ continuing to blur the lines between dayparts, we can expect to see growth in the types of breakfast offerings. Chefs surveyed as part of the National Restaurant Association’s 2017 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast named ethnic-inspired breakfast items as number six on their list of food trends, indicating a movement into culinary innovation for this meal.

Only time will tell how these predictions shake out, but we’ll be watching — and commenting — from here.

What are your foodservice industry predictions for 2017? Let us know in the comments.

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