2012 trends on tap

As a prelude to this month’s cover story we asked around the industry to find out what trends are on operators’ minds. A look at what folks are going to be paying attention to next year.

Peter Karpinski, Co-Founder & COO
Sage Restaurant Group
Number of units: 9
Denver, Colorado
Trend: Fast-casual Spanish, digital pocketbooks
“I think fast-casual Spanish is one of the next big growth areas in our business. We launched Bodega #5 in Chicago as a fast-casual version of our restaurant Mercat and are exploring developing a freestanding fast-casual Spanish concept. In 2012, we plan to pilot digital pocketbooks, like Google Wallet, in some of our businesses because digital forms of payment that do not link to traditional credit-card companies would cut credit-card fees for merchants and consumers.”

Jesse Gideon, VP of Operations and Corporate Chef
Fresh to Order
Number of units: 6
Atlanta, Georgia
Trend: Touch-screen tablets
“People increasingly want to be able to choose foods customized to their own lifestyles, so we plan to respond to this trend by introducing touch-screen tablet menus. The technology allows customers to tailor each meal to meet their dietary goals by filtering everything on the menu and ranking the options. If guests want to find vegetarian options, eat gluten-free, or filter calories, they just need to select the category. We plan to add this technology to all six Fresh To Order locations in 2012.”

Carolyn Brundage, Part-Owner
SmashMouth Burgers and Pizza
Number of units: 1
Schererville, Indiana
Trend: QR codes
“After noticing an interest in QR codes and online videos, we decided to incorporate them into our dessert offerings. QR codes are displayed on the signage at the table and when clients scan codes they are automatically connected to videos showing our head chef making desserts, providing an in-the-kitchen look at the desserts as they’re crafted.”

Mark Snyder, COO
Hurricane Grill & Wings
Number of units: 43
Palm Beach, Florida
Trend: Sriracha sauce, pork, mini foods
“We created a Sriracha-based sauce for wings because of Sriracha’s growing popularity. We’ve also built a limited-time offer around pulled pork sliders that combine two hot trends: pork and mini foods.”

Clori Rose-Geiger, Co-Owner
Mia’s Pizza and Eats
Number of units: 1
Cumming, Georgia
Trend: Gluten-free
“Gluten-free foods are becoming very popular. Last summer we began serving a gluten-free pizza, which has been quite a hit. Gluten-intolerant people love having more options than just a salad.”

Today's top stories

1
The U.S. Department of Labor does specify how an unpaid internship can be legal , but most restaurant operations would either fail this test or have to significantly alter how they handle internships...
2
Dave Theno, one of the restaurant industry’s most prominent authorities on food safety, drowned Monday off the coast of Hawaii while swimming with his grandson, according to media reports . He was 66...
3
Sonic Drive-In plans to test a burger patty made with a blend of ground beef and mushrooms to reduce the meat content, a health initiative believed to be a first for a national quick-service chain...
4
In a move likely to intensify competition in the growing fun-and-food category, the private-equity firm L Catterton has invested in Punch Bowl Social, a six-unit contender. Terms were not disclosed,...
5
Paul Damico and Kat Cole have been shifted into new positions by Roark Capital and its Focus Brands holding for the rollout of Roark’s Naf Naf Grill fast-casual Middle Eastern concept. Damico has...
6
Sustainability has long been a trend influencing the industry, but it’s one that operators still need to consider today. Consumers are aware of what it means to eat sustainably—including using local...
7
Expect the unexpected—that’s the theme of the menu trends presentation during next month’s Restaurant Trends & Directions conference in Chicago. “The accelerated pace of demographic, cultural,...
8
In the struggle to pinpoint why restaurant traffic is falling, some Yoda types have cited increased competition from a gray area between restaurants and supermarkets—the place where alternatives like...
9
Customer traffic is among the biggest problems in today’s restaurant environment. In the face of the competition to bring guests in the door, operators are challenged with setting themselves apart...
10
After craveable food and beverages and well-trained staff, a hard-working menu runs a close third as a marketing and profitability tool. With shrinking margins and a growing competitive environment,...