As every other new year does, 2019 has presented us with a fresh set of trends that will set apart the best of restaurants from the rest. As a restaurant consulting company in the Middle East, we share with you what is hot in the Food Service industry this year, from healthy eating to cashing in on the latest in technology.
1. Restaurant décor and setting
We know the sole purpose we go to restaurants is to enjoy great food, whether we just want to eat something a little different from what we have at home or even just for the experience of a different environment, it all comes down to the food. However, restaurant consulting firms like us know that may not be all customers are looking for this year. The younger generations of millennials, who happen to have the largest purchasing power now, appear to be drawn towards restaurants with a rich décor. Absorbed into their social media craze, they are looking for selfie worthy backgrounds to accompany the great food. Following this, be sure to invest vast resources to create the perfect atmosphere and remain at the top of your game.
2. Health and Wellness
Earlier into the year, a survey revealed that many people’s 2019 resolutions were diet-related. Cutting down on the meats, calorie restrictions and low-fat diets are just a few of some of these resolutions.
Many people are redefining their diets, clearly laying out what they are cutting off their plates. The vegetarian diet is a diet free of meat, fish, and fowl flesh.
- Lacto Vegetarians consume dairy products such as cheese, milk and yoghurt.
- Ovo Vegetarians consume egg products.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume dairy products and egg products.
- Pollotarians restrict meat consumption to poultry and fowl only.
- Pescatarians restrict their meat consumption to fish and seafood only.
- Flexitarians or semi-vegetarians focus on healthy plant proteins and other whole, minimally processed plant-based foods but consume meat and animal products in moderation.
Customers will definitely pay you to return visits when they feel their particular needs are being catered to. F&B brands and even restaurant management consultants in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are aware of this trend and are incorporating it into the restaurant operations.
Some of these include sprucing things up to attract and maintain such customers:
- Adapting menus marked with the nutritional values of every meal
- Serving whole or minimally processed foods
- Opting for naturally occurring sugar over added sugar
3. Consolidation of Technology into the Industry
The world is rapidly becoming digitalised with each passing day. Things that would take ages to do a few years back can now be done in a snap of the finger right from the comfort of your seat. In this era of millennials and the generation Z who are said to be social media and technology savvy, everything is preferred on screen. They seem to appreciate the ability to order food and drinks, paying via an app and ordering food electronically at the venue.
Many customers want to be served in the fastest way possible and nothing beats technology when it comes to that. Orders can now be placed online on the restaurants’ websites or apps. There is also facial recognition that remembers how the customer likes his or her food, saving loads of time and cutting down the long queues especially in fast food self-service restaurants with lots of regulars.
Smart tables are also becoming increasingly popular. They are interactive tables that allow customers to browse interactive menus (showcasing videos or photos, ingredient info, nutrition facts, and the cooking process), place orders, as well as review and pay bills directly from the table. You now do not need a whole team of waiters to attend to your orders. Orders go directly from the table to the cloud. This is more efficient and means less risk of human error.
Customers can also interact with each other through the tables and this is a sure way to keep them coming back. The children will also enjoy playing games on the interactive table while waiting for their food and help their parents or guardians take a break from having to worry about settling them down.
4. Cultivating the Use of Social Media
It is almost impossible to maximise your profits if you have not taken advantage of social media advertising. Expand your market to Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, which are becoming more popular. Sharing videos on YouTube and Facebook Live is now an upcoming trend that restaurateurs are embracing. They are easy and fun platforms to meet and interact with customers, get feedback and advertise any special events. Customers are willing to pay more at a restaurant if its social media ratings are good. As the big majority use social media, they will want to share their experiences at the restaurants they visited.
Social media platforms also allow you to show off your dishes and services to the world, knowing that today, almost everyone is on these platforms. You may employ the services of good photographers to capture the finest of details. Based on the number of likes and comments you get on your page, you are able to understand exactly what it is that the customer wants and gravitate towards that.
Restaurant consulting firms are now leading their clients into this direction by encouraging them to hire social media experts on their teams who are tasked with marketing the restaurant on these platforms.
People want to be able to access food from a particular restaurant at any time of the day at whatever place they will be. For corporate and social functions, consumers are placing orders from their favourite restaurants for catering services. Drive-throughs are also becoming increasingly common again and restaurants are building teams for home deliveries across cities. This desire for an easy and convenient manner in which to place food orders online with the fastest delivery options is increasing day by day.
We have also seen third party delivery firms come into play to relieve the restaurants of these tasks. The Middle East region is not known for slacking when it comes to the hospitality industry and is always on to the new trends. A vegan food delivery is said to soon launch in the UAE to cater to the needs of vegetarians.
6. An increase in the diverse array of operators in the industry
Restaurants now not only have the competition from fellow restaurants but also other operators who are coming into the scene. In 2019, we can already see many other providers such as street vendors and food trucks coming back to take the market by storm with tasty cuisines from local and different parts of the world. People no longer have to go to restaurants during the quick lunch hour on a workday and prefer to just grab a bite from the small food truck down the street or get breakfast from a street vendor by the subway early in the morning before getting to their workplaces.
Restaurant owners, therefore, have to strive to keep at par with their competitors. Snacking is also slowly becoming a huge trend, commonly provided by these street vendors. Restaurants should try including these snacks and small bites into their menus for take away.
This trend hit the Middle East with a huge bang as we can tell from the number of food truck restaurants present. In Dubai, they are located along the streets and on squares.
7. Influencers and Food Critics
We have already concluded that the fastest way to reach the millennials is by social media. People are now, more than ever, following key influencers on the internet. From comedians, beauticians, musicians and actors, these people draw a massive following wherever they go. F&B consultants advocate for hosting influencers to widen the restaurant’s market. By simply having one of these esteemed guests posting a photo on their social media pages from your restaurant, you are sure to have the place packed over the next couple of weeks.
Getting the right fit of influencers will mean staying local and matching your demographics. Consider the type of cuisine you’re offering and the preferences of the influencer as well.
8. The Local Foods Movement
In the previous years, restaurants that could offer a wide variety of exquisite cuisines were considered the crème. Well, not anymore. This year, people’s preferences have taken a new turn towards local foods. Local recipes, local ingredients and a little touch of local in the way the food is presented. We are in no way dismissing the tasty intercontinental cuisines, as once in a while customers would like to enjoy them. This year, however, customers want to have meals a little bit closer to home. What does this mean for restaurant owners? Restaurant consulting firms are now encouraging restaurants to obtain their ingredients from the local farmers or resort to growing their own produce. You can also include these specialities on the menu.
Skeek in Ras Al Khaima, UAE, is a great example of this. It is a homegrown restaurant that swears by the authentic Emirati Cuisine, adding modern fusion twist to the dishes.
9. Restaurant Sustainability and the role the restaurant plays in environmental conservation
Restaurant sustainability is simply running restaurant operations in a way that protects, preserves or restores the natural environment. It focuses on meeting current customer needs with the needs of the future generation in mind as well.
We have picked up this trend as more people raise concerns on the fast rate of pollution as the world becomes more digitalised. Governments all over the world are implementing policies in a bid to conserve the environment and restaurants, like any other businesses, have a huge role to play.
Customers are becoming wary of what they are eating and how it got to their plates, some going as far as only eating in sustainable restaurants. Restaurant consulting firms are also pressing for the implementation of conservative measures such as the “zero waste policy” through comprehensive recycling programs, eco-conscious packaging, proper waste disposal and installation of water recycling systems.
This has been widely accepted and adopted in the Middle East. Restaurant consulting companies in Saudi Arabia agree that more restaurants are approaching them to implement this trend in their restaurants. Some are getting rid of plastic packaging and opting for more eco-friendly recycled bags.
10. Ghost Restaurants / Dark kitchens
Ghost restaurants, also known as delivery-only restaurants, are food service businesses that serve customers exclusively through online food delivery. They do not have restaurant premises where you can sit and have your food, instead, you make your order online through their web page or on an app site and have the food delivered by a third party to your doorstep.
They are also becoming quite the trend in 2019 with people having less time to spend sitting at restaurants, they prefer eating as they go about their activities.
In Dubai, these virtual restaurants have taken the leading role and are expected to grow more in number these coming years.
11. Large format or communal dining
A number of millennials now view dining as a social event and prefer communal tables to the formal white linen service when eating out especially among their peer groups. Communal dining is centred on sharing a meal and great conversations at the same time. It is definitely something to think about when planning your restaurant seating and dining room setting.
This concept of communal dining is vastly gaining fame in restaurants across the continents of the world. However, this is not a new trend in Dubai or Saudi as it has been going on for ages culturally. Now, we can proudly say that these are the trendsetters, can’t we?
12. Innovations that cut down on Labor
Restaurant owners consider labour as the number one challenge. Restaurant consulting firms are pitching for increased use of technology and machinery to replace human labour in the kitchen and dining rooms. Kitchens are now being stocked with the latest, high tech equipment and even robots, most especially in the UAE, to maximise profits and cut down labour costs.
Restaurant Consulting Firms on Adapting the Trends
We, at Glee Hospitality, believe that it is very crucial for a restaurant to be in line with the latest trends in the industry in order to avoid being obsolete and eventually be phased out. As the world progresses daily, so are people’s tastes and preferences evolving. What was popular yesterday is not today. Following trends certainly does not mean compromising your unique features and quirks that set you apart from your competitors. It simply means, you are aware of your customers’ changing needs and are working hard to meet them anyway. It might be impossible to follow all the trends at once, but a good restaurant will make an effort to incorporate one or two.
As the year begins, everyone is cautious and keen on new trends. At the beginning of the year, many people made resolutions, for example, to eat healthy, and such customers will be in search of restaurants in line with their needs. It is at this point that they discover restaurants and stick to them with all loyalty throughout the year. Hence, it is best to adapt these trends, following predictions from restaurant consulting firms or at the very start of each new year. Do not get left behind. Make up your mind to spruce things up a little in the restaurant in line with the above trends and see your restaurant grow beyond your wildest thoughts in 2019.