With Inauguration Day around the corner and restaurant chains still trying to revive lagging sales, many businesses are asking the same question: What will consumers do in 2017? In response, Technomic has released its list of the top four consumer trends to watch for over the coming year. From economic uncertainty to a push for automation, here are the four consumer trends set to impact the restaurant business in 2017.
1. Patronage polarization
Consumers are facing increasing income inequality, and this instability has hurt many consumers’ economic outlook. Just 38% of consumers expect the economy to improve in 2017. Lower- and middle-class consumers will curb spending until instability subsides, but expect few cutbacks among affluent consumers. Operators will fine-tune the balance of affordability and quality, and cater to the affluent with more upscale food and dining.
2. Classics revival
Today’s diners seek modern, unique twists on classic fare. Consumers crave new foods and experiences but are comforted by familiar options. More than a quarter of consumers (27%) say they are ordering more foods with traditional, familiar flavors now than they were a year ago. Innovation will be inspired by the past; operators will highlight sourcing, especially farm to table, and use authentic ingredients in new ways. Nostalgic dishes like meatloaf and pot roast are even making a comeback at restaurants.
3. Food beyond fuel
Healthy intentions are driving heathier orders. Over two-fifths of consumers eat healthfully to feel better and to improve their quality of life. And over half of diners (53%) agree that fad diets are not a good way to lose weight. Operators will increasingly tout a balanced, healthy diet as the best medicine to an overall healthy lifestyle.
4. Automated takeout
Operators will adopt new technology to drive off-premise sales, as half of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 (49%) order food to go more often now than they did in 2013. More operators will test delivery drones and robots, chatbots and enhanced online ordering. Domino’s tested robot and drone delivery in New Zealand this year, with plans to expand drone testing to additional countries.