Trends

Keeping the foodservice equipment marketplace up to date with the latest menu and concept trends.

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The speed, scope and ramifications of coronavirus-driven societal and industry changes are stunning. Unlike during the economic recession of 2008, when the fast-casual segment rose to prominence and QSRs upped their game as budget-conscious customers traded down, this global health pandemic leaves few seats for winners at the table. 

Whether it serves as an ingredient in a dish or flavor for a beverage, acai berries, pitaya (dragon fruit), guava and other fruits are adding nutrients, as well as unique flavor profiles, to today’s restaurant menus. Jackfruit has even entered the plant-based realm as a substitute for pulled pork.

Restaurant chains Beef 'O' Brady's and Taziki’s may operate in different industry segments but like a growing number of chains they have adapted their product mix for the time being to include groceries.

Quick-service restaurant chain Popeyes couldn’t have predicted the mayhem when it introduced its chicken sandwich last August. Consumers were desperate to get their hands on the coveted item, which sold out in just two weeks. The same situation occurred when the sandwich was again offered four months later. It even inspired a skit on “Saturday Night Live” — publicity that can’t be bought.

Just as on the commercial side of the industry, K-12 foodservice operators have been forced to create new operating playbooks during the COVID-19 crisis. And just as for restaurant operators, the fluidity of the situation and persistent spread of the coronavirus demands flexibility and determination on the part of directors and their staffs to adjust and adapt.

As one reads the trade press and listens to restaurant industry pundits, the most common theme discussed over the past few years has been the call for restaurants to implement more and better technology into their operations.

Last month’s Service Insights focused on how equipment misuse and abuse leads to avoidable service calls on the hot side.

In a small but growing number of beer-centric operations, there’s no longer anything standing between the customer and a cold one — no server to wait for, no angling to get a bartender’s attention. Customers simply walk up and tap their own, free and empowered via technology to control their beer-loving destinies.

Fire-roasted foods impart a unique, very distinctive flavor, which explains the popularity of this type of cooking. For example, fire roasting works well with vegetables, which helps expand the repertoire of vegetarian and vegan menus. This cooking method adds a depth of flavor that traditional roasting, baking or boiling cannot achieve, according to St. Charles, Ill.-based Global Food Forums.

Some kitchen equipment service calls just can’t be avoided. A thermometer goes out, a component reaches the end of its lifecycle, moving parts need deep cleaning and lubrication. There’s nothing an operator can do about these.

Bakery cafes earn high marks from consumers for keeping pace with industry trends, including a focus on high quality and healthy menu items. In addition to baked goods, such as breads, cakes and pastries, these operations offer meals like sandwiches, soup and salads.

Foodservice professionals from all industry segments continue to look toward the future to try to understand what their businesses might look like in five or even ten years. One good way to understand what might be coming down the road is to examine key trends of the day and how they connect to your business. This includes understanding the impact these trends will have on foodservice design and equipment use.

You could argue that it’s the most important station in any kitchen, but the expediting station is often given the least consideration. Every single meal in any restaurant or foodservice operation flows through here, increasing the importance that the station be placed correctly, remain organized and include an ergonomic design.

A bar’s seating is as important to the overall brand as the menu, music and service. Consider the fabric, frame material, size of seat, upholstery, weight and color as the seating sets the stage for the dining experience.

The word “disruptive” has become one of the most overused terms of the last 10 years, but it’s no overstatement to say that in a relatively short time, third-party delivery services have disrupted the way restaurants do business. Grubhub started delivering to consumers in 2004; DoorDash and Uber Eats are both just about six years old. Yet these and other third-party delivery services have revolutionized the way restaurants deal with their customers — and, conversely, have changed the way customers perceive the concept of dining out (and dining in).

How would you design a kitchen knowing  that customers will never see it?

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