Understanding Restaurant Trends
A good restaurant is one which is aware of changing trends in the food industry without slavishly following them. In order to establish a solid reputation and build a loyal clientele, you can’t keep chopping and changing your menu to meet every food trend, but you do need to be aware of the industry to avoid looking dated.
What is a Trend and What is a Fad?It’s important to know the difference between a food industry trend and a fad because knowing about and acting on the former will help keep your restaurant fresh and appealing to customers whereas the latter will invariably cost you money and pass pretty quickly.
Trends that have been important for the restaurant industry in recent years include ingredients, service styles and presentation styles. Ingredient trends include wasabi (Japanese horseradish), pea shoots (little leaves from pea plants used as garnish) and sun dried tomatoes, which seemed to be in and on everything in the late 1990s! Service trends have included the waiting staff introducing themselves and then rattling off the specials, or having individual black boards put out for each table with the menu written on.
Presentation trends that have been and gone include ‘foams’ instead of sauces, using pretentious and not-necessarily-correct French terms for styles of cooking (just instead of gravy!) and stacking all the items in the middle of the plate instead of the previous trend of placing the items around the plate.
Have a House StyleYou can tell from the very minor details that impact on restaurant trends that your restaurant can quickly look dated if you’re still doing something that was ‘so last year’! Unless you’re going to get involved with every little trend that comes along, it really is better to work out your own house style and just give it little tweaks to show you know what’s in fashion.
How appropriate it is for your restaurant to follow trends in the industry also depends on your location and your target audience. If you run a local town restaurant where the majority of your business comes from families enjoying a roast dinner on a Sunday, then you are likely to alienate a very important demographic, whereas if you’re in the middle of Soho and your clientele are trendy media types, then you need to be setting new trends as well as knowing what’s going on.
How Do You Know What the Latest Trends Are?There is no one place that will give you the low-down on restaurant industry trends because, like any kind of trend, the whole point is that it starts off a bit exclusive and a bit ‘in the know’. The best way to keep in touch with trends is to buy a cross section of magazines for fashion, music and food, watch the latest celebrity chef programmes on television and eat at other fashionable restaurants as much as you can afford.
The most accessible (and cheapest!) way though is to read plenty of food blogs on line. They’re a very entertaining way to pick up on food trends as bloggers are quickly becoming an important element in trend setting in the food industry. More and more PR companies are realising the value of food bloggers too, so it’s a key element of the industry for any trend-focused restaurant.