The tight labor market and concerns about economic stability will continue to challenge restaurants. We’re also seeing very significant changes in how people are dining and what they are choosing to eat.
In times of uncertainty, creative leaders thrive.
November 18, 2019
We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: Navigating the Unfamiliar Landscape of Today’s Hospitality Industry is a preview of the hottest trends and predictions that will shape the hospitality industry in 2020. This comprehensive annual report identifies key influences in restaurants, hotels, hospitality marketing, food, and beverages.
In its twelfth edition, afco.’s trends report has become an industry standard in anticipating market demand and consumer feedback.
The greatest challenge facing the industry is that the tried and true isn’t gaining traction in the same way and operators must find new ways to reach and engage with guests in a constantly changing world.
We’re also seeing very significant changes in how people are dining and what they are choosing to eat,” says Andrew Freeman, founder of afco. “In times of uncertainty, creative leaders thrive.
Freeman will present his team’s observations in entirety on a webinar on Thursday, November 21 at 10:00 am PST/1:00 pm EST. A second webinar presentation will take place on Tuesday, December 3 at 12:30 pm PST/ 3:30 pm EST.
Until then, here is a preview of some of the top trends you can expect to see in the report:
Vegan cuisine has entered the mainstream; just don’t call it that (it’s plant-based!). No longer an obscure subset of vegetarian, well-established restaurants and brands known for indulgent, craveable foods are entering the action.
It isn’t just about animal welfare, but about what’s good for the environment and what’s good for us, without sacrificing flavor or presentation.
Salt Straw (Multiple Locations) does an entirely vegan series of ice cream every January, and offers one new vegan flavor every month.
Photo: Blood Orange Cranberry Sauce Ice Cream made with coconut cream base (Photo credit: Courtesy of Salt Straw)
Laduree, the famed French pastry shop and tea room, opened their first all-vegan outlet in Beverly Hills, and is introducing new vegan items and pastries in New York and Paris.
Wildseed (San Francisco) is a new plant-based restaurant bar by the same owners of Super Duper burgers.
Photo (Photo credit: Aubrie Pick)
CUISINE OF THE YEAR: LAOTIAN
Building on the popularity of Northern Thai cuisine, which is heavily influenced by Lao cooking, Laotian food features many of the same familiar flavors, distilled down to their essence. Expect spicy meat “salads” (larb), lots of fresh herbs, simple grilled meats and fish, and plenty of sticky rice; but don’t expect much coconut milk or many of the sweet flavors found in Thai cooking.
DISH OF THE YEAR: PORRIDGE
Porridge has had a bad rap, but for many, it represents a comfort food from home. Countries around the world have turned the humble base into something truly delicious – savory or sweet.
Whether it’s Chinese congee or jook, Portuguese papas, Japanese okayu, Scandinavian porridge or old-fashioned oats, chefs are elevating the versatile dish with creative, modern spins.
Porridge + Puffs (Los Angeles) offers various Asian style porridges
Kantine (San Francisco) has a savory porridge with kale, mushrooms and homemade farmer’s cheese
Sqirl (Los Angeles) serves sweet porridge with homemade jam and savory porridge with chicken
Fried dough is always in style, and the sugar dusted dough of the original creation is giving inspiration to new and delicious hybrid churro desserts and dishes including waffles, croissants and ice cream sandwiches.
Colita (Minneapolis) a flat, spiralized twist on traditional churros with cinnamon cream dulce de leche.
(Denver) churro croissant
3Ten Churro Bar (San Diego) serves over-the-top “designer” churros and churro-centric sundaes
SPIRIT OF THE YEAR: NO SPIRIT. We’re not just “sober curious,” we’re getting serious about our non-alcoholic drinks! It’s important to offer enticing, highly curated beverage options for those who choose to avoid alcohol but still want to partake in the celebration.
Restaurants and bars are upping their offerings with an inclusive bar program and we expect to see many more pre-bottled and canned spirit-free cocktails in the grocery aisles as well. Just don’t call them mocktails – we’re talking zero proof, N/A, spirit free, and non-alcoholic drinks.
Getaway (Brooklyn) a completely alcohol-free bar
Kingfisher (Durham) intermingles both non-alcoholic and regular cocktails on their drink menu
Meso Restaurant (San Jose, CA) offers a spirit free menu section that includes their “Tonic + Orange Blossom” made with Mediterranean tonic, peach bitters, orange blossom water, and grapefruit salt. Photo (Photo credit: Joseph Weaver)
Kin Euphorics “A nightlife beverage made from nourishing nootropics, balancing adaptogens, and replenishing botanics that lifts the mind and relaxes the body to open the spirit to connection.
” Companies are finding ways to be more aware of how work integrates into their employees overall physical and mental health. Why now? The labor shortage has played a large role, but this focus is also reflective of the reverberations from the #metoo movement and stories from an industry challenged with stress and artificial stimulants.
Employers are supporting their staff with more than just a paycheck. This same philosophy of creating an environment that is comfortable and conducive to well-being applies to guests as well.
Sean Brock’s new Nashville restaurants, Audrey and Red Bird, are slated to open in 2020 and will feature a mindfulness center on site for employees, as well as trained counselors in place of a standard HR team.
4505 Burgers BBQ (San Francisco, Oakland) increased staff benefits and decreased turnover by half.
Photo (Photo credit: Nicola Parisi)
Evolution Hospitality works with a wellness advisor, offering employees regular personal visits and a “Power of Pause” program for staff to come together and meditate. Photo (Photo Credit: Hardy Wilson: Evolution Hospitality’s Chief Wellness Officer, Dr.
Romie Mushtaq, leads the group in a meditation exercise at the opening of AC Hotel San Jose Santa Clara.)
West~bourne (NYC) teamed up with a new venture-backed child care center Vivvi to offer employees fully subsidized child care from 7 a.
m. to 2 a.
Among his advice is an associate-first hospitality philosophy, which advocates that taking good care of his people by prioritizing a healthy work life balance will ultimately lead to a healthy bottom line.
WE ARE THE WORLD: Multi-cultural cuisine mashups are taking new form as Americans assimilate and adopt tastes and flavors from immigrant communities and also as chefs pay tribute to their mixed race upbringings.
The idea of “authentic cuisine” has lost its traditional meaning, as these industry leaders are true to themselves and the experiences that guide them.
Kemuri Tatsu-ya (Austin) Japanese and Texas Barbecue
BBQ (Houston) Texas Barbecue with Chinese and Vietnamese influences
The Wolf’s Tailor (Denver) menu from “Italian kitchens Asian night markets”
Marlow Sons (Brooklyn) After 15 years in business, this Brooklyn standby has recently transitioned into serving “Japanese American farm food” inspired by the chef’s Japanese grandmother
RAMATO’S ALL THE RAGE. Ramato wines, historically from Friuli in northern Italy, provide an easy entry to trendy all-natural orange wines, thanks in part to the mass appeal of pinot grigio.
Taking the name from the Italian word for copper, which accurately describes their color, ramato wines (made like red or rose) get their color from the natural pinkish-gray color of the grapes’ skin. This process lends more flavor and structure than their modern pinot grigio counterparts – but without the same intensity or occasional funk of their orange cousins.
The implication? Ghost kitchens, virtual restaurants and cloud kitchens are moving into the spotlight. With this comes the need to really optimize for delivery through design and menu engineering on the one hand, and to differentiate the restaurant experience to draw people in, on the other.
Souvla SoMa (San Francisco): The popular Greek fast-casual restaurant opened their fifth location and first virtual restaurant in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood.
Zuul (NYC) is “a place for ghost kitchens to call home.
” The 5,000-square-foot space features nine separate kitchens and exclusively houses ghost restaurants including Junzi and Sweetgreen.
SushiYaa (Dallas) offers a separate Poke Station (which exists only on Uber Eats) menu available only for delivery
ROBOTS GET REAL.
Tech savvy operators will embrace robotics to expand their service beyond their brick mortar locations, bring restaurant-quality fresh food to areas where it’s needed most, control costs and reduce waste; while artificial intelligence is helping operators provide personalized experiences for their guests. The future is now.
feet and an extension cord to bring their salads right to their customers. Photo: Sally the Robot, (Photo credit: Courtesy of Chowbotics)
Ono Blends uses robotics to reimagine the mobile dining experience.
They believe affordable nutrition should be accessible to everyone. Photo (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ono Blends)
McDonald’s has begun rolling out “personalized” drive thru menu boards powered by artificial intelligence
GOING BEYOND GREEN Moving beyond the marketing gimmicks, it’s no longer enough to launder towels only on request or to eliminate the mini-bottles and other single-use toiletries and claim to be eco-friendly.
It is now an ethos that must carry through the entire property from hiring, to cleaning, food service, interior design, partnerships, activities, meetings and events.
1 Hotels utilized reclaimed wood, bricks, marble, stone and locally-sourced glass throughout the interior of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge.
The hotel also has a water reclamation system that collects rainwater for use in the adjacent Brooklyn Bridge Park for irrigation. Photo (Photo credit: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge).
Sandos Caracol Eco Resort’s new “green” guest rooms have reduced CO2 emissions 70%. They participate in a reforestation program, and are committed to hiring locally and training staff on sustainability issues.
They even have a mini rescue farm to save indigenous animals.
has created unique culinary events of all sizes from intimate dinners to food and wine festivals drawing more than 10,000 people. The team does whatever it takes to help their clients achieve their goals and focus on what they are passionate about: hotels, restaurants, food, wine, spirits and travel.