In a tumultuous restaurant landscape, operators took some high-stakes gambles this year. While some of the trends are still taking shape, proving fruitful as we enter 2018, others plagued the industry, hurting sales or brand image.
Off-premise market explodes
It might be considered Trend No. 1 for 2017. Some 44% of all restaurants sales come from the off-premise market, according to Technomic’s On Demand Delivery Study, powered by Ignite. Operators took on catering, drive-thru, meal kits and the biggest disruptor—delivery—in a big way. Across the board, operators from full service to fast food spent the year grappling with how to maintain brand image and quality when food is served away from the storefront, and often delivered by a third-party vendor. Operators have had to consider new store designs, platforms, technologies, logistics, staffing and more. And as consumer demand for food on demand continues, operators will continue to face new obstacles and update operations, possibly looking at ways to bring more of the delivery business in-house.
Pared-down menus go back to basics
Such sizable chains as Panera Bread Co., Qdoba Mexican Eats, Ruby Tuesday, Captain D’s, Cafe Rio and First Watch were acquired outright by private-equity firms. Longtime owners of Culver’s and Wow Bao sold pieces of their businesses but stayed involved. Meanwhile, the owner of the Miami Dolphins invested in &pizza and Milk Bar, and Panda Express’ Cherngs bought into Urbane Cafe.
Comebacks that failed to happen
Sex scandals rock the industry
Celebrity chef John Besh left his namesake dining operations in October following allegations of widespread sexual harassment within Besh Restaurant Group, which was called out by a local newspaper after an eight-month investigation. Mario Batali similarly stepped down in December following dozens of allegations, again outed after a media investigation. Allegations of inappropriate behavior were also leveled against culinary star Todd English and New York City restaurateur Ken Friedman.