Will These 5 Restaurant Trends Define 2020 Dining

Restaurant owners always have an ear to the ground regarding the latest trends. They have to. Success in the restaurant industry is more fleeting than in most others, thanks to razor thin margins, changing customer tastes, and a ton of competition. Staying ahead of the trends is necessary for long-term success.

Restaurant Dive’s Julie Littman and Emma Liem Beckett see five restaurant trends they believe will leave their mark in 2020. They wrote about them in a January 6 piece. This post will look at how likely the five trends are to impact the restaurant industry over the next 12 months. Needless to say that there is plenty of opinion to go around.

1. Smaller, Simpler Menus

Our discussion starts with the trend of shrinking and simplifying menus. According to Littman and Beckett, a number of big chains spent part of last year phasing out excess menu items that contributed to guests having too many choices. They specifically mentioned McDonald’s and Chili’s as examples.

This is a trend that makes perfect sense. Trying to be all things to all people is not a very good strategy for success. The more diversified a menu, the harder it is to be good at any one thing. This only creates confusion among patrons.

2. Lifestyle Marketing

Next up is lifestyle marketing, a trend that looks to move beyond the dining experience into merchandising. Restaurants attempting this maneuver are looking to turn their brands into lifestyle brands that touch other facets of life. From Popeye’s ugly Christmas sweater to KFC’s bearskin rug, some interesting merchandise is starting to pop up.

This trend is likely to die in 2020. Merchandise just isn’t going to cut it for diners who truly want an experience above all else. A restaurant without an attractive experience is not going to turn things around by selling coffee mugs and children’s toys.

3. More Ghosting

One trend likely to make big inroads in 2020 is the ghosting trend. In the restaurant industry, ghosting is the practice of setting up standalone kitchens with no dining rooms, no walk-up windows, and absolutely no capacity to serve customers directly. Ghost kitchens exist for one reason, and one reason only: to provide the food necessary to fulfill delivery orders. With the continued growth of food delivery in the U.S., ghosting has nowhere to go but up.

4. Micro Chains on the Move

Littman and Beckett see micro chains as hot restaurant properties for 2020. Micro chains are considered small restaurant chains with anywhere from 3 to 19 locations. Salt Lake City’s Taqueria27 Mexican restaurant chain is a good example. They are a local chain well known throughout Salt Lake City for their taco menu. They are largely unknown everywhere else.

More micro chain operations seem plausible with the current economy as strong as it is. Micro chains tend to serve the need for local, neighborhood restaurants that provide the convenience of larger chains without sacrificing the neighborhood experience.

5. More Catering to Gen Z

Last but not least is a move to start catering more to Gen Z. For the longest time, restaurants focused on the coveted millennial demographic. Will they start switching their attentions to this younger generation? Probably, but maybe not as much as some experts are predicting. As attractive as Gen Z is, they still do not have the financial resources millennials have.

This year will see definite trends in the restaurant industry. Some will gain a solid footing while others fade away as fast as they arrived. All of it will be interesting to watch, if nothing else.

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