These are nine trends that helped shaped Technomic's Top 500 chain restaurants in 2018. They range from quick service's growing interest in meat-free menu items to full-service chains finding success by adopting an indie vibe. Click ahead to see them all.
Bowls are big
We’ve heard about bowls and ethnic menu trends for years, but many of those chains hadn’t grown enough to make the Top 500 until now, says Kevin Schimpf, Technomic's manager of industry insights. Both health-forward concepts with grain bowls and brands focused on Mediterranean and Japanese are making an impact.
Striving for 'different'
As casual-dining chains continue to struggle, brands with an indie vibe are performing well. Many consumers, for example, don’t realize that concepts such as Cooper’s Hawk (pictured) are chains—they are upscale with a strong bar program and a bit of local flare, but have more than 30 high-earning units. QSR Whataburger is in the same boat, says Schimpf—it grew 6% in 2018 and continues to do well, but most consumers don’t realize how far a reach it actually has.
Business as usual
The consumer set that frequents fine-dining restaurants is still going out for pricey meals. The fine-dining space is typically treated as occasion-based eating, and many who are customers of these high-end concepts aren’t feeling a pinch.