U.S. restaurant trend predictions for 2012

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th November 2011

U.S. foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic has published a list of trends it predicts will shape the American restaurant industry in 2012.

Based on its own market research, Technomic claimed the following developments will be making news in the U.S. restaurant industry in the coming year:

  • Consumers seek a twist on the familiar: Consumers are in no mood to take risks, but novel flavours still tingle their taste buds, according to Technomic. For example, comfort foods with a twist (gourmet, ethnic, artisan, wood-fired) as well as innovation in familiar formats (sandwiches, wraps, pizza, pasta) are expected to be popular, rather than breakout items taken from less-familiar global cuisines.
  • Commodities costs drive rustic fare made in-house:  Technomic predicts that operators will curtail purchases of value-added items in favor of cheaper cuts, beans, grains and produce that require more back-of-house preparation to transform into honest, home-style food.
  • The next steps in local sourcing: “The rising use of seasonal and local items suits the less-is-more culinary trend,” Technomic said. “To facilitate flexible purchasing, growers, manufacturers, distributors and operators continue to work toward a more transparent, safe and efficient supply chain, streamlining workflow, recording every step and reducing waste.”
  • Social networking influence accelerates: Technomic is highlighting that consumers are increasingly taking control of social media to share their restaurant experiences and opinions with the public. This will help some restaurants rocket to popularity while leaving others quiet.
  • Customers want more information: Consumers want transparency, seeking disclosure of everything from calories and allergens on menus to local-sourcing practices. “A small but growing number are serious about nutrition, labeling, sustainability and community involvement, and they are using such knowledge to make purchasing decisions,” Technomic’s report said.
  • Operators try to resist discounting by offering ‘freebies’: The report claims the U.S. foodservice industry will continue to operate in a take-share environment, but discounting is cutting to the bone. “To counter daily deals and other forms of discounting, operators turn to creative, sometimes in-the-moment, methods to reward their best customers, such as a free dessert out of the blue,” the report said.