This Week In Foodservice

Jerry Stiegler aggregates key industry information and provides brief analysis to help foodservice professionals navigate the data.


Inside the What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, and More Foodservice News

The growth of luxury brands continues. Are buffets back? Meet the chain that says yes. The National Restaurant Association reveals the top 10 trends that will shape the industry in 2023. These stories and more This Week in Foodservice.

Sometimes it can be fun to take a break from discussing macroeconomic headwinds and take a closer look at some of the trends shaping the culinary side of the foodservice industry. With that in mind, we kick off this week’s blog with a look at the results from the What’s Hot Culinary Forecast. This annual joint effort between the National Restaurant Association and the American Culinary Federation surveyed more than 500 chefs, who shared their insights about what they see shaping the industry in the coming year. And here are the top ten trends they came up with:

  1. Experiences/local culture and community
  2. Fried chicken sandwiches and chicken sandwiches 3.0 (i.e., spicy and sweet-heat fusion flavors on chicken, etc.)
  3. Charcuterie boards
  4. Comfort fare
  5. Flatbread sandwiches/healthier wraps
  6. Menu streamlining
  7. Sriracha variations
  8. Globally inspired salads
  9. Zero waste/sustainability/upcycled foods
  10. Southeast Asian cuisines (Vietnamese, Singaporean, Philippine, etc.)

Trending global flavors including Southeast Asian and Caribbean cuisines and comfort foods with a twist will draw consumers; while charcuterie boards demonstrate the type of satisfying, shared dining experience that more guests are expected to seek out in 2023, per the NRA, which released the results.

Another phenomenon impacting the industry is the evolution of remote work, which is profoundly disrupting the typical dayparts and effectively dissolving traditional meal and work times. With the convenience of accessing any kind of meal or snack through delivery, curbside pickup, counter pickup, and drive-thru, any time of day or night, food ordering presents a unique opportunity to entice customers. Handheld menu options, such as French toast sticks, chicken and waffle sandwiches, can satisfy growing customer demand for convenience around the clock.

Foodservice News This Week

  • The combination of rising costs and consumers having lower disposable income places restaurant operators in a precarious position, the Chicago Sun Times reports. A segment that’s seemingly getting hit pretty hard is the midscale family dining operations, per the story. All of operators’ costs continue to rise, including food and staffing. Yet customers are willing to tolerate only so much when it comes to price increases. What’s an operator to do? Many are raising prices a little, cutting operating hours and streamlining menus. But even those changes only will take an operator so far. Undoubtedly, there will be some pretty difficult choices ahead for operators.
  • Jamba opened a second robotic smoothie kiosk at a Love’s Travel Stop location. Located in Corning, Calif., the self-operating kiosk will allow motorists to customize their smoothie orders around the clock. Users can order on-site or in advance via an app and schedule a pickup time.
  • Chicago’s hottest new burger restaurant is in a gas station? That’s right, according to a report in the Sun Times. The burgers are made on-premises in a restaurant that sits just in front of the gas station’s carwash and next to rows of snacks and a pair of slot machines. In many parts of the country, gas stations or the c-stores operating from those properties, are known for having good food but that’s generally not the case in Chicago.
  • Steve Weiss is calling it a career. After a stint as a professional windsurfer, and product manager for a windsurfing company Weiss went on to a 39-year career in the HVAC-R industry as vice president of sales and marketing for Weiss Instruments, Inc., a manufacturer of temperature and pressure instruments and controls, and five years with Emerson Climate Technologies. From 2010 to 2016 Weiss served as chairman of the NAFEM Technical Liaison Committee dealing with the challenges of the food service appliance industry, interacting with UL, NSF, DOE, EPA Energy Star.
  • Luxury brands continue to expand their place in the restaurant industry. The latest example is Ralph’s Coffee, the highly photographed caffeine fueled concept from fashion icon Ralph Lauren. Already a staple in New York City, Ralph’s Coffee is now available in Chicago, operating from the company’s location on the Magnificent Mile. Design elements of the 16-seat shop include herringbone wood floors, wainscoting, tufted banquettes and a fireplace and large windows overlooking Michigan Avenue.
  • Are buffets back? Yes, according to Pizza Ranch’s chief development officer, per a report in FSR Magazine. Pizza Ranch’s Mark Souba estimates that buffets now account for 75% of the chain’s revenue, which is down only 5% from pre-pandemic levels. Pizza Ranch has units in 14 states and its growth plans target 10 new states. The chain plans to open 7 to 12 locations in 2023 and the new units will include Pizza Ranch’s sibling concept known as FunZone Arcade.
  • Growth Chains: Salad and Go plans to open five locations in the Dallas, Texas, market before the end of 2022. Colorado-based Ziggi’s Coffee inked development deals that will lead to eight new locations in the coming year spread across the following states: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, New York and South Dakota. Ziggi’s has more than 60 locations spanning 12 states. Florida-based fast-casual chain Island Fin Poké Co. opened a restaurant Clarksville, Tenn., marking its 26th location and the first in the Volunteer State. Fast-casual pizza chain Donatos plans to open three more locations in the Charleston, S.C., area over the next few years. Saladworks and Frutta Bowls opened a co-branded restaurant in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Economic News This Week

  • U.S. retail and foodservice sales increased 1.3% in October from the previous month, per data from the U.S. Census Bureau. At $694.5 billion, sales were 8.3% greater than October 2021. Total sales for the August 2022 through October 2022 period were up 8.9% from the same period a year ago. Retail trade sales were up 1.2% from September 2022, and up 7.5% from October 2021. Sales at gas stations increased 17.8% from October 2021, while sales at foodservice and drinking places increased 14.1% from last year.
  • Industrial production decreased 0.1% in October, per data from the U.S. Federal Reserve. Manufacturing output edged up 0.1% in October, and its increases in July, August, and September were all lower than previously reported. In October, the index for utilities declined 1.5%. At 104.7% of its 2017 average, total industrial production in October was 3.3% greater than its year-earlier reading. Capacity utilization decreased 0.2% in October for a reading of 79.9%, a rate that is 0.3% greater than its long-run (1972–2021) average.
  • Housing permits issued declined 2.4% in October compared to the previous month, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. The October 2022 rate of 1.5 million is also 10.1% less than the same month in 2021. Permits for single‐family homes declined 3.6% in October compared to the previous month. October privately owned housing declined 4.2% compared to September and were 8.8% less than October 2021. October single family housing starts declined 6.1% compared to September.
  • Initial jobless claims totaled 222,000, a decline of 4,000 for the week ending November 12, per the U.S. Department of Labor. The 4-week moving average was 221,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week.
  • Existing home sales declined 5.9% in October from September, the National Association of Realtors reported. October 2022 sales of existing homes declined 28.4% from the same month in 2021. October represented the ninth consecutive month to post a decline in existing home sales. What’s driving the decline? Rising interest rates, per the NAR. “The impact is greater in expensive areas of the country and in markets that witnessed significant home price gains in recent years,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.
  • The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index for the U.S. decreased 0.8% in October 2022 to 114.9. This comes after a decline of 0.5% in September. The LEI is now down 3.2% over the 6-month period between April and October 2022, a reversal from its 0.5% growth over the previous 6 months. “The downturn in the LEI reflects consumers’ worsening outlook amid high inflation and rising interest rates, as well as declining prospects for housing construction and manufacturing,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director, economics, at The Conference Board. “The Conference Board forecasts real GDP growth will be 1.8% year-over-year in 2022, and a recession is likely to start around yearend and last through mid-2023.”