6 top trends for restaurants to watch

These six trends, both locally and internationally, are revolutionising the restaurant industry, with everything from technology like reservation apps (like the free Eat Out app) to delivery services playing a role.

New dining experiences

There’s a demand for new and interesting dining experiences. While the idea of ordering off-menu or from a secret menu is becoming increasingly popular in the US, it’s not really something South Africans have yet explored. Using social media and word of mouth as your tools, you can develop a few special menu items that only your regular crowd knows about. This helps to create buzz about your restaurant, as it gives diners a unique experience they’ll want to tell others about.

Macaron and MCC pairing at Canto

The macaron and MCC pairing at Canto. Photo supplied.

Another way to offer a unique dining experience is partnering with other brands to offer a themed evening once a month or every quarter – experiences like wine-and-food pairings, coffee-and-chocolate pairings or a dinner-and-entertainment package are great ways to attract diners to your restaurant with a complete experience rather than just a meal.

Tech takeover

Technology is allowing business owners to streamline operations and improve efficiency and service delivery.

As with every other industry, technology is allowing business owners to streamline operations and improve efficiency and service delivery. All-in-one restaurant management platforms have become indispensable, as they integrate point-of-sale, analytics, online ordering, inventory management and more. With operations working like clockwork, you’ll have more time to spend with your guests, listening to feedback and developing trendy additions to your menu and restaurant. (The Eat Out booking platform is one such system that also allows you access to an engaged audience of over 400 000 unique users per month. Join now and you could stand a chance to win a R25 000 ad campaign – find out more about the Eat Out booking platform here.)

Online ordering and delivery

According to Business Insider, in 2018 Mr D Food reported order growth of 210 percent, processing over R500 million worth of orders during the year, with over 270 000 active users. The reason? Millennials are the biggest driving force for change in all industries, including the restaurant industry. Above all else, millennials desire convenience and speed. With apps like Uber Eats, Mr D Food and the soon-to-launch Bolt food delivery app available, fine dining is no longer confined to the restaurant. Adding delivery to your service offering can only benefit your restaurant.

This has caused a rise in ‘virtual’ kitchens that operate solely on a delivery principle. It’s still an emerging concept in South Africa, but one restaurant making great strides in this space is Oishi, a Cape Town-based sushi restaurant. Oishi prepares food in a closed kitchen that either delivers directly or through a food delivery service.

Wake up to wellness

The trend towards health and wellness is certainly one of the biggest driving forces in the restaurant industry at the moment. Many diners are choosing vegan and vegetarian options, while some follow lifestyle plans like the paleo one, which calls for natural ingredients and no grains. The free-from category is growing, with many diners looking for gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free meals.

In addition to all the food diners are choosing not to eat, there’s also a large list of food with functional ingredients they’re actively seeking out, such as kombucha, kimchi and cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices. This presents golden opportunities to partner with small, local brands that can supply these artisanal products.

Conscious eating

Along with the health and wellness trend comes the added awareness about environmental impact and sustainability. Food waste is a major concern for both business owners and diners. Consider partnering with a local farm or community garden so that you can donate organic food waste for composting. Being organised and pro-active when ordering will also greatly reduce food waste – only order what you need and use it within the stipulated time frame.

You should also source your produce responsibly – be aware of the supply chain of each product you purchase, such as by partnering with local farms. Stay abreast of what seafood is sustainable by regularly checking the WWF-SASSI sustainable seafood list and informing your diners of possible substitutions or best choices.

Picture perfect

Most of your diners will want to take a quick pic before digging in.

Instagram has led to the rise of online foodie culture, including influencers, groups dedicated to restaurant reviews and even just the casual sharing of meals. All this food photography means chefs, managers and servers need to consider an additional aspect of food that may have been overlooked in the past: how food is presented. Most of your diners will want to take a quick pic before digging in. Presenting food in a novel, unique way that appeals to all five senses is integral. Think fun and colourful cocktails, as well as excellent plating that pays attention to height, detail and colour.

This feature first appeared in Full Service, the business magazine for the restaurant and catering industry. Read the full magazine

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