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Our Writers Predict Hits & Misses for 2019: Part 6

Our Writers Predict Hits & Misses for 2019: Part 6

Photo: Middle Eastern cuisines will continue to emerge and evolve on menus with Levantine, Tunisian, Turkish Israeli and Yemenite among the subsets to watch.


M. Jane Johnson’s Top 10 forecast predicts more Middle Eastern fare, meatless meals and Instagram in the new year.

As surely as tonight’s sun will set in the west sky and Olive Garden’s garlicy breadsticks will make hordes of people happy, prognosticators will crawl out of the woodwork to rub their chins and weigh in on 2019’s restaurant trends to watch. As an avid reader and occasionally cynic-minded commentator of such lists, I’m game to toss out some opinions about what the coming year might hold.

Restaurants going cashless are elitists.

Cashless restaurants, which have seemed like an unstoppable train, will have to confront their inherent elitism. The FDIC estimates that 6 ½ percent (about 8.4 million) of homes don’t have a bank account while 18.7 percent are underbanked, meaning they rely on cash for day-to-day spending. While these consumers may not be targets for cashless restaurants, barring those who want to pay with some Abes makes for pretty bad optics. If you’re thinking of going cashless, just put a big sign in the window, “Welcome. We discriminate.”

Get ready for even more meatless meals.

In terms of nomenclature, plant-based offerings will be where it’s at, the term stomping out dogmatic-sounding vegetarian and vegan that have for so long signaled meatless meals. With the name change quickly gaining traction, plant-based menu choices will continue to grow, appealing to diners who are happily omnivorous.

More LTOs are on the way.

With competition keen in quick-serve and fast-casual, the use of limited-time offers will increase. A mapped-out calendar of LTOs that’s well promoted and executed with sass and style helps freshen familiar concepts and attract new consumers. When they work, they go gangbusters; ask Taco Bell if Nacho Fries worked out okay.

Waste not, want not.

Food waste will continue to play big as an issue. How many times do we want to be reminded that up to 40 percent of food is wasted and still do nada? At the restaurant level, waste gnaws at the bottom line, reason enough to order smarter and use food more efficiently and more completely.

Lab-grown meats will become a reality.

The technology required to make lab-grown meats will bring them closer to reality. Get ready for all kinds of discussions about what name to use. Cultured, in-vitro, synthetic and clean are some of the names that are being tossed around. Soylent green, however, is not.

Delivery options will continue to expand.

Third-party providers will, I repeat will, be the delivery option that makes the most sense for consumers, so expect them to continue to grow. This is somewhat to the chagrin of operators who are asked to split with delivery providers a big part of the profits these items reap.

Instagram as a key ingredient.

Restaurants will continue to serve Instagram, creating both decors and menu items that are post worthy. A restaurant without a few colorful, simple and graphically bold backdrops and photo-worthy dishes just won’t be part of the shared universe.

Middle Eastern fare goes mainstream.

Middle Eastern cuisines will continue to emerge and evolve on menus with Levantine, Tunisian, Turkish Israeli and Yemenite among the subsets to watch. It may not make sense to go full-on Mid East on every menu, but small steps such as spicing profiles allow just about anyone to play this delicious game.

File the last two under “W” for wish fulfillment, as in if I wish hard and maybe burn sage incense for good karma, maybe restaurants will actually pick up on these timeless trends:

  1. Service will be a key differentiator, a lead aspect in what makes a restaurant successful as bored, poorly trained, inept and disinterested front-of-the-house team members are permanently 86ed.
  2. How the first nine play out—or don’t—as the year unfolds is anyone’s guess, but whatever emerges, all signs point to a robust year of vibrancy and growth in the industry. And, as wishes go, that’s a fervent one that seems like it might actually be in the offing for 2019.

  • Author: M. Jane Johnson
  • Posted: December 03, 2018
  • Categories: Trending Now
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