With a new year comes the opportunity to grow your restaurant business in new and exciting ways, reconnecting with loyal customers whilst forming a whole new following. It’s also a great time to start a restaurant, tapping into people’s desire for something new and exciting.

Influencers in the food and beverage world have now released their predictions for the hottest restaurant trends of 2019. And we’ve picked our top six; all of which can easily be trialled without too much work or expense on your part.

1. Next level ice cream

Ice cream never goes out of fashion, but Waitrose predicts that it’ll be a star of 2019, with more companies vying for a space on people’s Instagram feeds and experimenting with dairy alternatives. However you’ve been serving ice cream on your menu until now, now is the time to take it to the next level.

How to do it:

  • Offer vegan-friendly ice creams made from coconut or soya as well as sugar-free options
  • Expand your ice cream menu to include plant- and nut-based flavours, as well as unusual, healthy sprinkles
  • Be daring with your presentation, whether that’s getting hold of some stylish new bowls or thinking totally outside the box (ice cream nachos, anyone?)

2. Plastic waste reduction

After half a million people campaigned for McDonald’s to ditch plastic straws last year, it committed to the universal introduction of biodegradable paper alternatives across its UK stores in 2019 — eradicating the consumption of nearly 2 million plastic straws daily. And it’s not the only company to note changing customer demands either, with Costa Coffee, Wetherspoons and Pizza Express all taking similar measures to rid themselves of plastic straws.

Beyond straws, Just Eat has been boldly setting the standard for plastic waste reduction by testing out non-plastic packaging for sachets, giving customers the chance to opt-out of receiving single-use cutlery and stopping the sale of single-use products in its London-based partner shop. Deliveroo has also made promises to offer its partner restaurants sustainable packaging alternatives.

If corporations are doing it, an independent business like yours can certainly do it too. And as people start making more conscious choices about their plastic footprint, a visible change to your approach is a great hook.

How to do it:

  • Switch to paper or pasta straws, paper bags and compostable cutlery and coffee cups
  • If you need to keep some plastic items in your inventory, such as sauce sachets, always ask customers if they really need them
  • Shop at wholesale suppliers who sell produce without (or just less) plastic packaging
  • Develop your own innovative ways to reduce plastic waste

3. Filipino cuisine

Whilst the craze for Filipino food took off in the US in 2018, it’s still up and coming here in the UK according to National Geographic. Filipino supper club Adobros describes the cuisine as: “…the first fusion cuisine in the world – and that’s what makes it so unique and interesting. Nowhere else in the world will you find a dish using Southeast Asian produce, flavoured with Chinese ingredients and given a Spanish name.” Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

How to do it:

  • Create dishes using the native Filipino purple yam, ube
  • Flavour meat, seafood or vegetables with adobo, the traditional Filipino marinade from vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and black peppercorns
  • Experiment with other Filipino ingredients to spice up your menu

4. Alternative fats

Whole Foods in the US notes that the rise of keto and paleo diets in recent years has consequently increased the demand for dairy-, animal- and grain-free healthy fat sources. This boom is expected to continue into 2019, with coconuts, avocados and nuts taking centre stage in coffees, chocolates, nutrition bars and more.

How to do it:

  • Introduce new kinds of milk to your menu, like coconut, almond, cashew and macadamia
  • Change up the way you dress salads and fry ingredients by using coconut or avocado oil
  • Swap out animal-derived butter, cheese and milk in your baked goods
  • Hold a “bring your own” event, where health enthusiasts can come and share their favourite dairy-, animal- and grain-free products together

5. Giving to a good cause

According to af&co, a top US boutique restaurant and hospitality consulting firm, 2019 will see more restaurants finding ways to contribute to good causes through creative fundraising and marketing activity. It gives examples of Curio, a restaurant in San Francisco, that donates $1 from the sale of every “Sphinx” cocktail to support wildfire recovery efforts, and Bluestem Brasserie’s “Bake the World a Better Place”, which brings top pastry chefs together for a fundraising bake sale.

As corporate social responsibility becomes an increasingly important factor in people’s buying decisions, events and initiatives like the above add to your brand image, as well as providing unconventional ways to engage your audience and create buzz.

How to do it:

  • Create special menu items where some of the profits go a special cause
  • Open up your restaurant space for charity events during quieter periods, or even hold your own
  • Offer discounts for the elderly, the homeless or others in need of special care
  • Allow charities to use your business as a platform by letting them post through your social media
  • Ask customers to donate extra tips towards a charity of your choice

6. Honest marketing

This is perhaps one of the most interesting trends for small businesses who have a particularly intimate relationship with their customers and far more direct conversations with them.

Hamish Renton, managing director of UK-based food and drink consultancy HRA says that it’s not just about providing transparency into things like animal welfare and sustainability, it’s about being balanced and realistic: “More and more consumers are getting fed up with outlandish claims which we are seeing across the board…You need to justify the claims you are making. Drinks that can improve your memory etc. These are outlandish claims that shouldn’t be allowed.”

How to do it:

  • When designing your menu, think about the real reasons behind your choices, avoiding exaggeration and pretence
  • Spend more time at customers’ tables, inviting them to ask about your business
  • Capture more customer feedback to see what values they truly care about
  • Make 2019 a year to remove anything from your business — methods, dishes, ingredients, decor, marketing communications — that don’t fit honestly with your brand

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