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The top restaurant trends of 2019

RB editors weigh in on the year's defining traits.
dunkin storefront
Photograph: Shutterstock

These are the trends that defined the restaurant industry in 2019, according to Restaurant Business editors.

Name changes

What’s in a name? Far too much, according to the handful of restaurant operations that made name-shortening a sleeper trend of 2019.  They decided that specificity was a detriment as they endeavored to broaden their appeal beyond a single menu item or type of prep. Among the notable practitioners: Dunkin’ (nee Dunkin’ Donuts), Jamba (Jamba Juice), Dig (Dig Inn) and Pincho (Pincho Grill). —Peter Romeo

Catering catches hold

Chains ranging from Applebee’s to Potbelly embraced big-order delivery as the latest manifestation of the off-premise boom.  Converts describe it as delivery without the hassles—orders are big enough to justify carting the food yourself, and being able to prep between dayparts means less of a strain on maxed-out kitchens. —P.R.

Plant-based everything.

—Heather Lalley

Vegetable invention

Operators are increasingly looking at vegetables as the star of the plate—not trying to camouflage them in a plant-based burgers or cauliflower pizza crust. Eggplant, carrots, Brussels sprouts—and yes, cauliflower—are being showcased with global flavors in the center of the plate. —Patricia Cobe

Delivery evolution

While operators have been frustrated with many aspects of third-party delivery partnerships, it now seems that the relationships are moving from a partnership-at-all-costs model to one more conducive to both parties, with more data sharing, more flexibility on menu and pricing and even commission rates decreasing, for some. As this has been happening, operators are also getting smarter about off-premise, tightening up their menu and operations to better accommodate delivery orders. —Sara Rush Wirth

Delivery-friendly food

Operators are reformulating menu items to travel well and using compostable, eco-friendly and tamper-proof packaging to make it sustainable and safe. —P.C.

Eye on integration

Restaurant technology is changing at a furious pace, with new innovations coming out at warp speed. One major challenge for restaurant operators is getting all of their tech platforms to talk to one another. This year, there's been a focus on making platforms more conducive to integration, with both operators and suppliers talking about more open APIs and other integration and partnership strategies. —S.R.W.

Data drives everything

No longer are operators running restaurants based on gut instinct and experience alone. Even more than in years past, operators are making decisions based on data and analysis. —S.R.W.

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