As Eater pointed out (with tongue firmly in cheek), food trend predictions are notoriously finicky things, seemingly selected at times with little more than a divining rod or crystal ball.
For food purveyors, trend predictions can a double-edged sword — offering the potential for embracing cutting edge innovation (who doesn’t want to be the one to launch the next big thing?) while running the risk of being too edgy to be embraced on a wider level.
A fleeting fad is not sufficient to build a business on, says Annika Stensson of the National Restaurant Association in this New York Times piece on this very topic. The trends that tend to take hold are actually the ones that develop more slowly and can take years to reach the mainstream.
So when it comes to trends, how do you know when to adopt what’s hot and when to drop it like it’s hot? Consider the following questions when deciding whether to invest in sourcing those cool new “functional mushrooms.”
- Who is the audience?
If your answer to that question is, “the college kids” — and your entire business isn’t built on the university town dining scene — it may be prudent to hold off on wholeheartedly embracing a trendy food. Keep an eye out for trends that appeal to larger audiences — and, importantly, audiences like Boomers with money to spend on dining out.
- What is the cost?
Evaluate the cost not just in cash money but also in reputation, brand recognition and other unmeasurables. Be sure changes to your offerings don’t end up labeling your company as the “chases the fads” folks.
- What is the benefit?
On the other hand, innovation and creativity are generally considered virtues in the food industry, so don’t let the pendulum swing too far to the safe and stable or you’ll find yourself peddling ramen in a poke world.
Want to try a trend on for size before fully diving in? Try these 5 tips for launching successful LTOs. And let us know what trends you’ve seen soar or fall flat in the comments below.