In this month’s Trend Watch roundup from Restaurant Hospitality, we look at the uncertain future of lab-grown meat. Also, some data on snacks; the benefits of responding to online reviews; and top trending ingredients in 2020, from unripe produce to vermouth.
Keep scrolling to find out what trends we’re watching this month.
Customers don’t trust lab-grown meat yet
Will lab-cultured meat become the new trendy alternative protein? Although right now meat cultivated from animal cells in a lab — not to be confused with plant-based proteins like Impossible and Beyond burgers — is still in the development process, it could be the future of protein consumption.
According to market research and business intelligence company, IDTechEx’s recent “Plant-Based and Cultured Meat 2020-2030” report, the cultivated meat industry is projected to reach $514 million in sales by 2030. But although cultured or “clean” meat could have a bright future, they have not reached shelves yet. IDTechEx predicts that products will begin appearing by 2022-2023 with a “small-scale release in a few restaurants as premium, luxury products.”
But beyond technology and funding hiccups, the biggest obstacle for the cultured meat industry could be public perception. According to a poll of 500 customers from Charleston|Orwig, in partnership with Maeve Webster of Menu Matters and Confidential Consumer, nearly half of consumers describe the concept of lab-produced or synthetic foods as “scary.”
“When you say lab-grown food or synthetic food, those are frightening topics,” Charleston|Orwig CEO Mark Gale said. “Culturally, we are conditioned to think of it as something we should be concerned about. Younger audiences are more open to these new ideas of food, and in general people are interested but really don’t know much about [the technology].”
Snacks are the one menu segment that nearly all consumers can agree on: 96% of consumers snack on any given day, according to the most recent data from Datassential. But when it comes to munching outside of the three square meals, what are customers craving? According to Datassential, these are the top five snacks customers are most likely to order from your menu:
- Packaged salty snacks like pretzels, chips, and popcorn (60% would order)
- Baked goods (54% would order)
- Dollar menu items (54% would order)
- Fried appetizers (53% would order)
- Pizza by the slice (51% would order)
Responding to online reviews is key to success, Trip Advisor says
Although you can’t control customers leaving negative reviews about your restaurant, the second-best thing you can do? Interact with those reviews. A consumer survey from Trip Advisor says that 77% of customers are more likely to book when they see a business responding to both positive reviews and negative ones. Also, 67% of respondents said that they “find it helpful to see the context of negative reviews.”
Trip Advisor’s tips for business owners when responding to customers online?
- Introduce yourself in every message
- Reiterate what is said in positive reviews
- Provide context and background for negative reviews
- Be polite — 90% of survey respondents say that they look favorably upon owners who respond thoughtfully to criticism
Customers still value experience over convenience
Delivery may be king right now, but one survey from facilities management leader Vixxo claims that customers are still looking for an in-person experience over the convenience of takeout.
The survey of 1,000 customers found that nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) prefer dining in restaurants over takeout or delivery. The findings, Vixxo researchers said, were consistent across all demographics.
“While convenience is critical in our fast-paced society, dining remains one of the few curated opportunities to connect with others outside of technology,” Matt Brown, chief revenue officer at Vixxo said. “Restaurants that cater to those great in-house dining experiences allow us to pause from the digital world and engage with our other senses.”
So, what makes customers come back (in person) to restaurants, as opposed to just ordering another pizza or whatever’s trending on GrubHub? 51% of respondents choose their favorite restaurants based on menu options and 38% take overall experience, including atmosphere, service, and convenience, into account. Other considerations include affordability and value consideration.
5 ingredients to watch in 2020
While 2019 was all about ube and shishito peppers, what will 2020 look like for menu trends? According to Datassential’s “2020 Vision” report these are five ingredients we should start to look for this year:
Grains of paradise — a West African spice with “notes of black pepper, cardamom, and citrus mixed with floral flavors”
Unripe produce — Chefs are playing with the unique textures of unripe fruits and vegetables, especially mango, strawberries and avocados.
Ash— Ash is the new smoke. Look for “Ash-baked” ingredients to hit menus this year.
Vermouth — This cocktail classic will take centerstage on drink menus.
Ajvar — Fiery peppers continue to captivate like this spicy Balkan native pepper.
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