CHICAGO – In its new report, “Foodservice Trends 2019,” Mintel’s analysts explored four trends that will influence the restaurant industry in the coming year. The trends fall under the headings of: You Are Where You Eat; Serving the Earth; Restaurants for Good; and Tech in Balance.

“You Are Where You Eat” addresses how customers are supporting restaurants with cultures and values that align with their lifestyles and enhancing loyalty.

Mintel’s report mentioned that merchandise and branding will likely play a crucial role for restaurants as people are more open to expressing their personalities. Outside-the box promotions and contests designed to reward customer loyalty to brands have proven successful and are expected to continue. 

“In the year ahead, expect restaurants to take customer engagement a step further by creating a sense of community with their patrons,” said Amanda Topper, associate director of foodservice research, at Mintel. “Knowing that diners want to align themselves with brands that fit their lifestyle, restaurants can meet diners halfway by taking a stance on social and political issues and supporting organizations that are important to them. The most successful brands will be those that are personable and form transparent relationships with diners.”

Under the heading of “Serving the Earth,” Mintel’s report said customers are expecting more environmental responsibility from restaurants they are visiting. From compostable straws to upcycled food scraps, diners’ appetites are extending beyond the menu to restaurants’ earth-saving business practices.

“With more restaurants adopting environmentally friendly practices, sustainability will become the new normal, and operators will need to take more innovative steps to stand out,” Topper said. “Expect to see restaurants make changes to the way they operate in 2019, including partnerships that put the greater good above competition and circular economies that benefit the environment and the people involved in the food systems.”

The report also addresses labor issues under the heading of “Restaurants for Good”. In the year ahead, foodservice operators will be focusing on retaining talent. Being active in communities and the quality of restaurants’ labor practices will be seen as a significant factor for customers and restaurants.

“Employee retention programs and community outreach initiatives will be crucial for brands in 2019. Although mental health care and sexual harassment protections seem like they should already be basic necessities, these issues are ongoing in the restaurant industry,” the Mintel report stated. “With national awareness mounting for both, expect to see restaurants implement stricter procedures and protocols surrounding these issues in an effort to better protect and support their employees.”

Finally, restaurants must continue to find the right mix of operational efficiency and human interaction to ensure customer satisfaction. The report addresses this in the section titled: “Tech in Balance.”

Mintel said, “As restaurant technology continues to become more sophisticated, the way consumers order will dramatically change moving forward. Restaurants will utilize technology to heighten customer experiences and provide value through more personalized service. By implementing technology with tangible benefits for customers, such as greater customization and more intuitive recommendations, operators will be able to drive efficiency and better customer service.”