Although restaurants are filling tables at levels unseen since the recession, 2015’s dining trends show that spending habits forged during that penny-pinching period continue to impact how consumers view dining out, Chicago-based researcher Technomic says.
"Midscale dining is doing better but must keep reinventing and innovating to continue this path," Joe Pawlak, senior vice president at Technomic, said in a statement. "Fine dining has bounced back. Meanwhile, limited-service restaurants, especially fast-casual concepts, continue to bite into the casual-dining market, although there is market improvement in this sector."
Combining learnings from interviews and surveys with operators, chefs and consumers, as well as variety of qualitative and quantitative menu data, Technomic identified these six trends shaping foodservice so far in 2015:
Fast casual is a tour de force.
This segment is still gaining steam—outpacing other sectors with a growth rate of 11 percent, compared to 4 percent among QSRs and 5.6 percent in casual dining.
Customizable is key.
Within the fast-casual segment, concepts built around a “build-your-own” element are growing twice as fast as those not offering customization.
Cult status builds clout.
Quick-service restaurants that are performing well, such as Chick-fil-A and Culver’s, have developed clear niches, garnered cult-like followings and grab higher check averages.
Additives are making their exit.
More-conscious customers are seeking information about ingredients’ sourcing and processing, and operators have responded with greater menu transparency.
Tech is essential.
Online ordering, tabletop tablets and mobile apps fulfill two needs: appealing to tech-savvy millennials and supplementing service when labor is tight.
Menu items must be close-up ready.
The ubiquity of food blogs and foodie media makes it necessary for dining to be an Instagram-worthy experience.