Top Food and Restaurant Trends for 2014

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Restaurant.com loves to share ideas and information with restaurant operators.  Here’s the scoop on some trends that are sure to hit the industry this year.

Advertising in Social Media: The secret is out.  Social media is as useful in advertising as it is for social networking.  Investing just a few hundred dollars a month in social media advertising can go a long way.  Facebook makes it simple to exclusively geo-target potential diners in your city as well as friends of current “likers” of your page. An active dialogue about your restaurant on social media is a great way to form a groundswell of support and excitement.  Some larger chains and other venturous independent restaurants are also trying to use Vine and Twitter for promotional purposes, hoping to become viral sensations and attract younger demographics.  Don’t be afraid to try different platforms, as you’ll likely reach different potential clients.

Sustainable Restaurants/Hyper-local Sourcing: This isn’t an option for every restaurant, but gosh, will your diners be impressed with the local sourcing of fresh ingredients for your restaurant.  Make even more of a statement with hyper-local sourcing of produce from your own private garden.  Farm-to-table service is on the rise across the country, as more independently operated farms are starting to take root outside of cities, but even local urban restaurants have joined the movement with rooftop gardens and locally butchered meats.  Diners are also being intrigued by “game-type” poultry and red meats.  With the rising costs for beef, consider adding duck, goat, pheasant, wild boar or elk options to your menu.

Mobile Presence: Whether your restaurant can afford to develop your own mobile application or you opt to use the services of a restaurant program, like Restaurant.com, the benefits of having a mobile presence for on-the-go diners are invaluable.  Research conducted this past year found that 81 percent of smartphone-owning consumers search for restaurants through mobile apps, and we can only expect that number to grow.

Healthy Kids Menus: Voluntary initiatives like the National Restaurant Association-sponsored Kids LiveWell  (and participating restaurants like Au Bon Pain, Burger King, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Chili’s, Corner Bakery Café, IHOP, Outback Steak House and many more) have helped change kids’ menus and dining options into healthier meals.  Local, independently owned restaurants can join the movement for healthier kids’ foods with simple menu changes which are as easy as substituting veggies and fruits for French fries and milk and juices for sodas.

Menu Items to Watch For: Kale and the cronut were all the rage in 2013, but Restaurant.com foresees a return to some simple, traditional ingredients in 2014. Look for restaurants to feature more tea and chili pepper hot sauces and for main entrees to include eggs in the coming year.  Tea will not only be featured on drink menus – including its use in cocktail infusions— but it will make its way back into the kitchen, in the ovens and onto the stoves and grills, getting used for the brining, smoking and poaching of meats, fruits and vegetables.  For more on food trends for 2014, read here.

Technology at the Table:  We’ve already seen tablet technology contribute to learning in classrooms and to presentations in the business arena, but they will soon have a presence in the restaurant industry as well.  Chili’s, Applebee’s and White Castle are some of the major chains committing to tablet menus and others are sure to follow.  Restaurant tablet hardware and software provider E la Carte, the company providing 100,000 Presto ordering tablets to 1,800 Applebee’s restaurants across the United States in 2014, advertise a 10 percent sales boost using their tablets and POS system and a whopping seven minutes faster table turn time.  With tablet ordering, restaurants can theoretically up-sell 100 percent of the time and, according to E la Carte, service could improve with less wait time (orders are sent directly to the kitchen) and a decreased risk for service errors at the table.