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Consumer Trends

4 themes among this year’s fastest-growing emerging chains

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This year’s fastest-growing emerging restaurant chains share many commonalities, a number of which will be discussed in July at the Restaurant Trends & Directions conference in Chicago. Top executives from emerging brands will gather at the conference to discuss growth strategies, menu, marketing, workforce issues and more.

These themes will also be explored in the cover story of the July issue of Restaurant Business, as part of the publication’s annual examination of the Future 50 chains leading the pack.

Here are just a few of the common threads that are defining this year’s Future 50 concepts.



1. Chains are embracing an independent vibe

Some 57% of all consumers (and 64% of millennials) say they most often visit local independent restaurants for full-service dining, according to Technomic’s 2017 Generational Consumer Trend Report. Chains are taking notice, adopting local specialties and decor. HopCat bills itself as the “anti-chain chain,” adopting unique designs and a locally influenced beer menu, while Southern-focused Tupelo Honey Cafe partners with local charities for fundraising events.

2. Blended and alternative meats are on the rise

With more consumers looking to trim their red meat consumption, operators are responding by menuing plant-based and blended burgers as well as other protein options, such as the organic quinoa patty offered at Burger Lounge. These operators are finding ways to appeal to a broad range of diners, while minimizing veto votes.

3. Asian brands are finding a home in the U.S.

The U.S. is seeing plenty of imports from half a world away. On this year’s Future 50 list are Jinya Ramen Bar from Tokyo, 85C Bakery Cafe from Taiwan, Kula Revolving Sushi Bar from Japan and Caffebene from South Korea. These concepts often bring innovation in technology, menu and service to their categories.

4. Brands are taking on community-minded missions

Piada Italian Street Food is known for teaming up with area charities; &Pizza has built a reputation for supporting progressive causes, such as the fight for the $15 an hour minimum wage; and the new app from B.good empowers consumers to donate food to local schools.


The Restaurant Trends & Directions conference brings the top executives from successful emerging chains together for three days of menu development, performance discussions and, most importantly, peer-to-peer networking.

Armed with Technomic research, attendees of Restaurant Trends & Directions are better prepared to tackle challenges, leverage relationships and refine marketing plans.

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