BBQ, Asian still big influences.
Technomic, the Chicago-based foodservice research firm, has identified a series of emerging trends that will impact the second half of 2014. Here are four that will affect the way operators run their facilities.
Barbecue love: Authentic regional interpretations of slow‐cooked barbecue continue to have broad appeal, but the latest trend is the application of barbecue sauces and flavors to handheld offerings like sandwiches and pizza, often with barbecue pulled pork as the core protein, Technomic reports. Even conventional barbecue chains have rolled out nontraditional barbecue‐inspired handhelds, such as the BBQ Chicken Lettuce Wrap LTO at Lucille's Smokehouse Bar‐B‐Que.
Asian‐style small plates: Asian‐influenced bites include Lazy Dog Café's Dim Sum Dumplings and the Chicken Sriracha Bites served with ranch dressing at bd's Mongolian Grill, but even fine‐dining restaurants are incorporating dim sum‐style service.
Beverages bubbling Up: Specialty teas; lemonade and iced tea blends; restaurant originals such as housemade sodas; smoothies beyond fruit, featuring surprising ingredients ranging from kale or peanut butter — all are seeing increases in menu incidence. Fast casuals lead the way: Pret A Manger added Beet Beautiful Juice with apple, carrot, beet and ginger; Grand Traverse Pie Company unveiled a Pie Smoothie; and Panda Express is testing an in-store tea bar. When it comes to adult beverage trends, hops rule; IPAs and other hoppy craft beers are proliferating in many incarnations.
Shrinking menus: Across all mealparts, casual-dining chains are reducing menus. Operations can slow down when menus get too big; a less‐is‐more approach can create a more user‐friendly customer experience. Will the success of narrowly focused fast-casuals lead to more menu and operational simplification in full service?