Predicting the top restaurant trends for 2020

RB’s editors look ahead at what operators can expect from the industry in the new year.
balkan food
Photograph: Shutterstock

As we head into 2020, here are the industry trends RB’s editors expect to see popping up.

An explosion of ghost kitchens

Consumers are going to continue to demand convenience in 2020, and that means the off-premise boom will continue. As operators continue to examine the best approach to take, ghost kitchens will likely play more in the consideration set. While some will use them essentially as extra kitchen space that can handle the influx in catering and delivery orders, others will turn to them to test out new markets, using data from the ghost kitchen partners and delivery apps to help select potential areas for expansion. —Sara Rush Wirth

The positives, particularly the ability to test a new market before committing big capital, will make the proliferation of these dining-room-less newcomers one of the major trends of the year. The industry just has to figure out what to call them. —Peter Romeo

Zero-alcohol bars.

—Heather Lalley

Lower-ABV cocktails.

—Patricia Cobe

Franchisees demanding to drive

With “asset light” models now the norm among big chains, franchisees will demand more input on their respective brands’ direction. The battles last year in the McDonald’s and Jack in the Box systems will in hindsight look like the preliminary matches of a long fight card. We may even see more operators landing a seat on franchisors’ boards. –P.R.

More refined/small-batch housemade plant-based items

Versus reliance on heavily processed Impossible/Beyond. —H.L.

Balkan cuisine.


Green to go

We've already seen bans on polystyrene and a war on plastic straws. The new year will bring more attention to innovations in packaging that create less waste while still maintaining the quality and integrity of the food transported. One of the first areas we'll see some changes: single-use cups. —S.R.W.

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