2021 is finally here! 2020 felt drastically long and we are all delighted to see the end of it. Predicting trends for the next year isn’t simple though, as we have seen the industry experience major change and hurdles over the past 12 months.
We have noted some key insights from 2020 that will affect the restaurant industry going forward. With 85% of Americans changing their food habits as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you will need to adapt in order to stay afloat. Let’s get started on our top 10 food trends that will help you boost your customer base in 2021!
1. Eat local
This trend has been included on almost every list for the past 5 years and it won’t be going away anytime soon. The pandemic forced us to open our eyes to the impact of relying on products traveling to reach us – and we have seen enough empty supermarket shelves to last us a lifetime.
If you aren’t doing so already, you should source the majority of your produce from local providers in order to reduce your carbon footprint. Your customers will be relieved to see local ingredients on the menu. Market it widely, in order to increase awareness for your sustainable choices and to appeal to a more environmentally-aware clientele.
2. Experiences are everything
Let’s face it, we miss eating out! After the past few months, dining out has become a special occasion and restaurants will need to jump on board to ensure they are offering a fantastic experience for their customers. A visit to a restaurant should be about providing an escape from the day-to-day grind. It should feel like a special occasion.
From reservation to settling the bill, you need to consider every step of the customer journey in order to make it an unforgettable experience – enticing customers to visit time and time again, underlining the importance and the value of dining out. Sit down with your team to come up with innovative and new ways of improving the experience at your establishment, and you will reap the financial rewards of repeat custom.
3. Rise of the Climatarians
Making The New York Times’ list of top food words in 2016, ‘climatarianism’ is back once again! This diet has the goal of reversing climate change and climatarians eat local to reduce their carbon footprint, they eat pork and poultry to limit gas emissions and use every part of an ingredient to limit waste.
We will see this growing dietary trend reflected in restaurant menus across the country as climatarians, on average, have high disposable incomes. Look at your menus and see if you can reduce the dishes containing beef and lamb, or replace them with pork or poultry. Have your kitchen use every part of the produce and you should see a reduction in waste across your restaurant. Don’t forget to share what you are doing on your social channels to increase awareness.
4. A new way to eat in
Yes, we all want to envisage 2021 as the antithesis of its predecessor. But let’s be real, it will take time for the world to get back to normal. Cooking at home will remain popular as people head tentatively back to restaurants, less often than in previous years. But it isn’t all bad news. Many restaurants have pivoted to offer take-out and delivery and we will see new and interesting ways to provide the restaurant experience at home.
Packaging will become more innovative to improve the presentation of the item. Look at how you can align your eat-in and delivery experiences to offer your customers a restaurant experience in the comfort, and safety, of their own homes. Think paella delivered in a paella pan, pizza delivered on wooden slats. Consider changing your delivery packaging to more sustainable and up-market materials made from plant-based plastics or wood. Maybe even offer re-usable solutions that customers can return with and receive a discount on their next order.
5. Meal-kits here to stay
When we aren’t ordering in or dining out, we still want to eat well. Meal-kits have seen a boom in 2020 and this trend is definitely here to stay. So, what are they? A meal-kit is a box full of ingredients that you need to follow specific recipes. While supermarkets and delis are open, we don’t visit as often to buy ingredients as trips outside are less frequent than before.
Meal-kits help us to solve this problem. In 2020, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron Home Chef have led the charge, but these products come at a high environmental cost as they are shipped cross-country in refrigerated boxes. Restaurants have begun to offer their own meal-kits in order to supplement their income and reduce food waste.
So, what should you do to take advantage of this surge in popularity? Take a look at your most popular dishes and work on simplified recipes that you can sell locally along with the ingredients. Encourage your customers to post pictures of their creations on social media so that you can make the most of free publicity, and share this user-generated content across your channels.
6. TikTok for food and beverage marketing
2020 was the year of TikTok. This social media site has been at the forefront of many news stories this year and food has been an integral part of its growth! September saw the prolific rise in popularity of the egg tornado, originally part of the Korean recipe for tornado omurice, and, as a result, supermarkets across the country saw an increase in egg sales. TikTok has become THE place for food hacks and fun recipes.
If you aren’t already using TikTok, you should download it. Why not have your chef post their favorite recipes and show fun tricks to gain followers? If you use it wisely, you will increase awareness amongst Generation Z-ers and gain a whole new demographic of customers.
7. Japanese sandwiches
Our Instagram feeds have been full of #Japanese sandwiches, or ‘Sandos’, in 2020 and the trend is set to continue. They are dominating menus nationwide. What’s more, Yelp declared that reviews of Sandos were up 97% this year.
So, what are they? These sandwiches are made with sweet milk bread and breaded meat. As international travel has been limited, consumers still want to sample international flavors which have led to a number of new Sandos eateries popping up across the US. Easy to make and popular with consumers, we expect to see Sandos become a staple dish of 2021.
8. Immunity boosters
Immunity boosting food products are expected to boom in 2021 and beyond, with the market growing from $22 billion to over $24 billion by 2023. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as consumers have become more conscious of their immune systems and what to eat to avoid falling sick. We expect to see an increase in the use, and advertising of, spices such as ginger and turmeric, Vitamins A, C, and D along with zinc in menus and recipes across the country.
If you are already including these immunity-boosting ingredients in your recipes, then make sure that you are marketing them on the menu and across social media to attract more health-conscious clients.
9. Diet culture overhaul
The past 10 years have seen a rise in a toxic form of diet culture, as social media has been at the forefront of promoting diet programs that tend to advise restricting various types of food. 2020 has seen a huge online backlash towards these dietary programs, and we are experiencing a shift towards mindful eating and natural foods. After a year of missing out on normal, everyday experiences, consumers have decided that they do not want to lead restrictive lifestyles when it comes to food!
10. Transparent cuisine
According to Innova’s latest Consumer Survey, six in ten consumers want to know more about where food comes from. Increased transparency on supermarket packaging will become the norm, highlighting the ever-increasing ethical and environmental concerns of consumers.
Storytelling and supply chain information will become more important to inform customers of the origin of ingredients and recipes. Update your menus and website with this information and make sure that your servers are knowledgeable about where your produce comes from.
So, there you have it! Our top 10 food trends for 2021 and beyond which will help you stay on track and focus in the coming 12 months. Whether it’s social media marketing or immune system boosting dishes, the most important thing for you to do this year will be to listen to your customers. Listen to their expectations and their fears. By doing this, you will be able to provide them with wonderful experiences to make up for what has been a difficult past year.