Foodservice industry trends and data observer Technomic looked at a wide range of factors affecting the restaurant industry and compiled a list of its top seven key trends for 2019 and beyond.

Here are four key operational trends identified by Technomic researchers.

Next Wave for Third-Party Players: Off-premise dining is booming, and third-party food delivery companies are stepping up to feed an on-demand culture. But between top players like Grubhub and Uber Eats, and start-up companies eager to get into the game, the third-party field is crowded and companies are hustling to differentiate. 

Subscription models that eliminate per-delivery fees in favor of a flat-rate subscription will emerge to present a clearer value proposition for consumers. For third-party delivery services on pace to win the “last mile” with consumers, subscription programs may be the next incentive to provide a true competitive edge.

Meat-Free to the Extreme: Plant-based dining now means more than just swapping meats for veggies; it represents a strategy that includes zero waste policies and a wider focus on sustainability. Restaurant companies are banning plastic straws in an eco-friendly push to eliminate waste and pollution, and operators are making compostable, plant-based food packaging a priority.

Can a full-on ban of meat be next? We’re already seeing companies outside the industry put policies in place to ban meat consumption on-site and to incentivize employees not to order meat when they dine out.

Tech Taking Over the Experience: Technology amenities, from drone delivery to app-based checkout services, are redefining convenience and putting “frictionless” foodservice front and center. The game-changing rollout of Amazon Go into new markets is exposing more consumers to next-generation grab-and-go. 

But if the future is indeed frictionless, what lasting impact will it have on customer experiences and person-to-person interaction? 

Transparency: Mention “transparency” in years past and consumers would likely connect it to a product story around sourcing, food origins and growing and processing methods. 

Tomorrow’s foodservice consumer increasingly will demand a more well-rounded transparency message and, in response, manufacturers and operators will craft a multifaceted approach. This means brands being fully transparent on several fronts, including pricing, revealing true net costs and unbundled costs; corporate performance, emphasizing fair trade, diversity, living wages and executive compensation; and the planet, publicizing its real environmental impact, conservation initiatives and progressive stance on animal welfare.

Originally appeared in the December, 2018 issue of Prepared Foods as Next-Gen Dinings.