Food Trends Shaping Tomorrow’s Tastes
A significant paradigm shift is happening amongst quick-service and fast-casual restaurants across the country. As current consumers and future generations are becoming more conscious about their meals and how they are prepared, we’re seeing a major change in how the restaurant industry is sourcing ingredients, managing supply chains, addressing food sustainability, and cultivating its workforce. The businesses that have spearheaded these changes have been rewarded by consumers, who have increasingly embraced dining establishments that engage in healthier and environmentally beneficial practices and innovations.
As the geopolitical and environmental issues facing future generations become more acute after the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders in the restaurant industry are taking a proactive approach to how they source ingredients, focusing on supporting biodiversity and sustainable agriculture. To do this requires a concerted effort from grocers, restaurant operators, CPG companies, growers, and importers to seek out and introduce new trends that can reduce our reliance on concentrated food sources. A number of organizations are teaming up to educate diners and encourage more biodiverse food systems in the hopes of expanding food sources and promoting food security.
The popularity of food tribes and dining lifestyles such as vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and keto diets are driving massive menu innovation and creating entirely new product categories in the food market. A variety of restaurants and suppliers are taking action to align themselves with new eating values and offering options to capture the zeitgeist around food tribes. Non-GMO commodities, vegan plant-based “meats,” low sodium and low-calorie categories, fewer preservatives, and other health-conscious options have become the norm at many fast-casual restaurant chains, contributing to increased customer loyalty and brand awareness. Along with the expansion of healthy meal options, many restaurants are also embracing ingredient transparency and supply chain traceability. Nutritional information is being printed on receipts, and restaurants are offering more resources to show how ingredients are sourced.
It’s not just the food that’s changing, either. The restaurant industry is also revolutionizing the way it trains its future workforce. With turnover rates high in both front-of-house and back-of-house and the industry in turmoil after COVID-19, many chefs and restauranteurs are looking to engage with their digitally native workforce in a new way. After the pandemic forced many restaurants to drastically change the way they served food, leading to a rise in takeout, delivery-only, outdoor dining, and other workarounds to keep revenue streams flowing, many dining rooms are taking the opportunity to incorporate new technology to train their young workforce. By using more app-based training that highlights how employees’ performance and contributions impact the success of the business, many restaurant operators have been able to reduce employee turnover rates and improve overall customer service.
An increased focus on personnel has also led to awareness regarding the lack of diversity in many workforces and ownership groups. Women have made significant strides, and the percentage of female chefs is increasing across the country. As more women enter the culinary arts and food services, and restaurants cater to females who spend more income on dining than their male counterparts, the future looks bright for food thought leaders who create strategies to bring balance to the table.