Restaurant Trends – how do they apply to the real world scenario of your restaurant down the street?
Trends can be a game changer for a restaurant operator. Think about the millennial trend which turned to a tidal wave with some writers claiming this one demographic calls all the shots for restaurant market share. If you missed an appeal to that audience, some will declare your restaurant dead in the water. On the other hand, you can’t apply every single trend. If you take the latest Restaurant Trends Reports and start applying everything, in the words of one restaurant broker, “You're probably gonna have a giant mess and very quickly so."
Trend reports are released by marketing companies and by the National Restaurant Association every year. You can get culinary trends, beverage trends, technology trends and drive it down to specific items like coffee trends. How do you use it and what’s the right way to apply the knowledge? Here are the restaurant broker’s thoughts on trend spotting and trend hopping.
Don’t live in the Muddled Middle Ground
There's a phrase in the marketing world called the “muddled middle ground” and that's where you never ever want to be. Why? Because your client can't find you there. If you try to be a little bit of everything, you end up being a whole lot of nothing. That’s the danger of letting a trend eclipse your basic premise. If you are a vegan concept, it makes absolutely no sense to go with pates and a lot of meat spreads. Even though that’s the hottest trend in menus, it doesn't make any sense for you.
Make sure the Trend Makes Sense for Your Concept
On the other hand, trends can move you in the right direction. If you're a veggie concept and the trend for vegetables says beets are out and cauliflower is emerging, then make sure high points on your menu no longer speak to beets as the main star when they begin trending down. Instead, start speaking to cauliflower in your dish creation and then push the envelope into radish.
A good restaurant operator should take the latest trend reports available online and really study it to see where it should impact their concept. As restaurant brokers, we study all the trends in the industry all the time do we can advise clients on the latest concepts.
Trend Spot but Don’t Trend Hop at the Expense of your Legacy
How do you stay on trend without giving up your identity? If you've been in business fifty years, stay with your core approach and adapt to stay relevant. That adaptation may be the adoption of technology while keeping your strengths. If you’re built on the best wings in town, there’s no reason to jack with that recipe but putting Ipads on the table with “build your own sauce” opportunities is a changeup that will appeal to a new and old customer.
You Don’t Have to Keep Following the New Best Thing
The opposite of the “muddle middle ground” is a radical approach that keeps your customer guessing. If you change the menu as often as you change your sheets, it can be difficult to build loyalty. Cuisines come and go. Not too long ago it was Asian Fusion which gave way to New French and that morphed to Spanish influences, small plates and Tapas. It’s here today, gone tomorrow.
There’s an issue of following the trends too tightly or not moving at all. It’s finding the approach that makes sense to you as a restaurant operator and your cuisine that matters.
Don’t Ignore a Long Term Trend with Sales Consequences
One trend we know for sure is changing is the lunch business. The long lunches where people go out for an hour and half is a shrinking segment. People are now eating more and more at their desk or working from home which means no lunch out at all.
That changes the dynamics. If you're in the lunch business you must be refreshing your options by expanding to the trends of today. That include, “meals to go” or carry out, delivery, catering and all the delivery services. You’re not just making food to order anymore, you’ve having to figure out how to make and stock grab-and-go as well as understand what “travels” well and what doesn’t. It’s not as simple as building a bunch of sandwiches, and putting them in your deli case.
There has to be a plan if both trending and your numbers are telling you lunch is shrinking. If you used to have 50 covers between 11 and 2, and now it’s down to 11:30 to 1:30 and only 30. Develop a plan to make up that volume.
If lunch is out but Sunday brunch is in, then take that trend information build the volume back. So, maybe you're never going to get back that long lunch but you can pick up part of it with “to go” and delivery. Find ways to get the volume back at different other parts of the week. It will require you to be very targeted, specific and creative. But that’s why you’re in the business anyway, right?
The bottom line is that trend spotting and trend hopping can be ways to build your restaurant sales. You just have to decide which trends make sense for your business and pursue with passion.
Eric and Robin Gagnon, the Restaurants Brokers write on topics of interest to the restaurant industry. They are the founders of We Sell Restaurants and wesellrestaurants.com. Their restaurants for sale website can be found online at this link.