While many shifts in the restaurant industry are slow to take hold, the use and availability of data is one trend that’s quickly emerging. In the 2018 Restaurant Trends Forecast, Restaurant Business and Technomic predict that data will drive restaurants in order to achieve a level of personalization that sets brands apart.

“We expect data to impact every area of operations, from marketing messages personalized based on behavioral analytics to hyper-customized menu suggestions based on past purchases to sensors that track staff productivity,” says Kelly Killian, director of the foodservice content group for Winsight. “And in the kitchen, smarter equipment will gather data to make for more efficient purchasing, production and more.”

Restaurant Business magazine joined the foodservice experts from Technomic to produce the Winsight 2018 Restaurant Trends Forecast. The report at RestaurantBusinessOnline.com, predicts seven ways the restaurant landscape will change in the next 12 months. 

Two of those seven critical trends directly involve foods, which researchers identify as “Asian island cuisine” and “Gut check.” Here are descriptions of both.

Asian Island Cuisine: The next progression of food trends coming from the Far East is Asian island fare. As momentum builds around Filipino foods, expect culinary influences from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to crop up. The sour, better and aromatic flavor profiles from these island nations take influence from mainland Asia and Europe—making them both familiar and exotic. 

Ingredients such as sambal and kaffir lime will become more commonplace menu features, while Filipino abobo and bagoong will emerge. Look for street food common to Southeast Asian island hawker centers (open-air markets of food stalls), such as Hainanese chicken rice (pictured) and laksa, to make menu waves.

Gut Check: Now that allergen-free foods are mainstream, restaurants are exploring the next health frontier: lower intensity, gut-friendly menu items. Some concepts are responding by incorporating probiotic, prebiotic and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as turmeric, aloe, flaxseed and skyr that improve digestion. 

And instead of spicing dishes with belly-burning blast of straight heat, chefs are pairing hot peppers with sweet, savory, smoky and tangy ingredients to delivery more complexity—a flavor combination that mellows the heat. These pairings are showing up in relishes such as South African chakalaka and sauces such as blueberry jerk barbecue sauce.

RB and Technomic analysts also predict that …
… after years of going gaga over millennials, restaurants will fall back in love with baby boomers;
… federal and local governments will continue to face off over labor issues;
… more operators will embrace personalized advancement programs to retain workers;
off-premise eating will grow with more concepts redesigning operations to accommodate delivery and take-out options. This will impact food and packaging as it spurs more travel-friendly fare and heat-and-eat meals.

Winsight LLC provides business-to-business media and information services for the convenience-retailing, foodservice and grocery industries. Its media portfolio includes CSP, Restaurant Business, FoodService Director, Convenience Store Products and Grocery Business. Winsight also owns Technomic Inc., a provider of primary and secondary food industry market information and advisory services.  

To view the full trends report, visit: http://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/consumer-trends/7-trends-will-shape-restaurants-2018.

Originally appeared in the December, 2017 issue of Prepared Foods as What’s on the Menu?