Diners are more mobile and self-educated than ever before. The growth in awareness of various food allergies, dietary limitations, sustainable eating and a healthful mindset has added a layer of complexity, especially to fine dining establishments’ menus. Staying up to date on food trends and fitting them within your restaurant’s concept can be challenging.
Technology is also changing the game; 79% of consumers say it increases convenience, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 forecast. Diners expect information at their fingertips, whether they’re searching from a desktop or a smartphone.
We’ve created an infographic of menu trends and a list of tips to help restaurants keep up:
Inspiring a feeling of belonging
Fresh and local foods top the list of things diners expect from your restaurant these days and are also unlocking their appetites. Eight in 10 diners are interested in locally-sourced menu items.
This stems in part from a desire for transparency between diner and restaurant. Knowing where their food comes from gives diners peace of mind that they’re eating something fresh, while supporting the local area. Offering local items also makes them feel like they’re a part of a community, whether they reside there full time or are passing through.
Follow trends, not fads
Differentiating between the two can be tough. Capitalizing on broader trends, such as sustainable food sources, alternative grains or house-infused condiments allows you to put your own spin on something that’s less likely to fade out. Invest in menu items with staying power and enhance them with trending flavors. Offering seasonal menus allows you to test trending items with your audience; if they’re well received, you can make them a permanent part of your menu.
The convenience factor
The search term “near me” has increased 34 times since 2011 and has nearly doubled in the past year. You can’t up and move your restaurant, but you can position it for online success.
Update your website and mobile site, as well as your presence on sites and apps that diners are using to search for local eats. Your location information (name, address, phone number and hours) needs to be correct, and enhancing listings with menu items, photos and specials make a searcher’s decision to choose you an obvious one.
What’s yours is theirs
House-infused oils and liquors, house-brewed beers and signature dishes make customers feel like they are a part of your culture and offer them a taste they can’t get anywhere else. The next time they’re craving one of your one-of-a-kind creations, you’ll have them coming back for more.
You don’t have to rework your entire menu to cater to the dietary restrictions that have increased in recent years. Chances are, you’re already offering a dish or two that fall into the vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free categories – or could with a few small tweaks.
Highlight diet-friendly items with a menu key or separate menus to make decision making easier for anyone with limitations. It’ll open your doors to those customers and eliminate the chances that they’ll need to send dishes back because of an unlisted ingredient.
The bottom line
In today’s day and age, diners are equipped with technology that empowers them to research a restaurant and arrive at it within minutes. Not only is it crucial to follow menu and dietary trends and implement them when it makes sense, you need to foster awareness of the options available at your restaurant through a strong online presence. By keeping diners in the know about your menu offerings, you keep new customers coming to your restaurant, and existing ones coming back.