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5 restaurant predictions for 2020

With a potential recession looming, Technomic looks ahead at the challenges and opportunities awaiting operators next year.
Photograph: Shutterstock

2019 was a challenging year for restaurants. Traffic was sluggish, low unemployment made hiring and retention extremely difficult, and the sheer number of foodservice options intensified competition. Things probably won’t get any easier in 2020, according to Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. Among its annual year-end predictions, the researcher noted that 38% of economists believe a recession could hit in 2020. Those concerns and other economic factors could make consumers more cautious, which means restaurants will need to be even more strategic as they look for an edge. Here are five predictions from Technomic for what next year may bring—and may help operators stay ahead of the curve.

Cooler colors

In 2020, warm-hued foods such as yellow turmeric and red chile will give way to ingredients with cooler tones, according to Technomic.

What to watch for:

  •  Greens: Rabes, cresses, celtuce, kale hybrids, komatsuna
    •  Watch for sea greens, peas and absinthe in cocktails
  • Blues: Spirulina, butterfly pea
  • Purples: Variations of corn, broccoli, kale, snap peas, basil, potatoes

Fad frenzy

Restaurants will increasingly try to drum up attention with eye-catching, off-the-wall menu items available for an extremely limited time.

  • “We’ll progressively see operators—even large chains—jumping on fads instead of waiting for trends as they have in the past.” —Technomic

What to watch for:

  • Asian cheese tea, huitlacoche (corn smut), edible insects, tonka beans, CBD
  • “Mouth magic” ingredients such as sweet limes and habanada peppers—habanero lookalikes that don’t pack the heat

Plants keep growing

Demand for plant-forward is not going away, and restaurants will need to mix up their offerings in 2020 to keep things fresh, Technomic says.

What to watch for:

  • Lesser-used parts of plants, such as beet greens, sweet potato leaves and avocado blossom
  • Seaweed in snacks, desserts and drinks
  • Oat, fruit and vegetable milk

For here and to go

Delivery and takeout will continue to grow in 2020, but Technomic also expects restaurants to put a renewed focus on dine-in business to boost traffic.

What to watch for:

  • Bold LTOs, dine-in-only deals, loyalty rewards that require frequent visits

Sustainable mindset

Growing awareness around sustainability has led to a fundamental shift in restaurants’ philosophy, from “create-use-recycle” to “create-use-reuse-sustain.” New efforts will extend beyond the menu to all parts of the operation.

What to watch for:

  • Reusable cup programs, portion-controlling dispensers
  • Strawless lids, smaller napkins, wood-fiber utensils
  • Traceable sourcing of paper, compostable packaging
  • Hydroponic vegetable production, new ways of processing leftovers

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