Foodie Leaks: 8 Must-Know Restaurant Trending Stories
Let’s be honest: we all need to eat to live, but some of us live to eat. So, for all you foodies out there, this new blog post is for you. As summer has headed off into the sunset, many of the nation’s biggest restaurant groups have some interesting trending foodie news buzzing online as the year is coming closer to its end.
Interestingly, there are some trends afoot that affect all verticals of the food industry. For instance, the importance of Millennials and Gen Z-ers has been touted across the web as the accelerators of the foodservice industry’s need to be more innovative. Not surprising, but interesting to see a hunch turn into a reality.
An additional trend growing is the idea of fast-and-quick customization, a movement that’s grown in a variety of verticals over the last several years. The NPD Group, a leading global information group and retail industry data gurus, noted that, for restaurants to “stay current and relevant in this overcrowded restaurant marketplace, operators need to serve the foods people crave and be willing to customize according to consumer’s personal choices. In 2017, more restaurant operators will offer digital menu options, which will enable consumers to customize their orders.”
And Domino’s Pizza is one such large-scale operator that’s successfully tackling the trend by offering its customers a variety of ways to place food orders, from online, to apps, to its site.
At Restaurant Marketing Labs, we care about the food service industry as a whole, and we figure you foodies do, too. So, without further adieu, here’s a roundup of the hottest Foodie Leaks trending thus far in 2017.
1. FAST FOOD IS STILL EN VOGUE
Rounding out the top of our Foodie Leaks List is a recent report by, The NPD Group. This past January, NPD reported, “U.S. restaurant industry traffic will remain stalled in 2017 in much the same manner it did in 2016.”
Interestingly, although most restaurant industry traffic will be meager, Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) are estimated to eek-out some growth. If you’re unfamiliar with the term QSR, it’s basically those more drive-thru-esque restaurants, i.e. Dunkin’ Donuts, Sonic and McDonalds, and the like. Not exactly the type of growth we want to see as health food-conscious studies rue the day, encouraging Americans to pay closer attention to our widening waistlines. Nevertheless, these “fast-casual” leaders will be making mild strides, no pun intended.
The silver-lining: “Restaurant operators are in a position to alter the current forecast, but will need to differentiate themselves from the competition,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD Group’s restaurant industry analyst. “In the year ahead, it will be critical for them to stay relevant in consumers’ minds, focusing on innovative products, unique promotions, competitive pricing, stating the benefits of eating at restaurants versus home, and delivering an enjoyable experience.”
2. APP-DRIVEN FOOD DELIVERY IS BOOMING
Reuters, via U.S.News.com, recently reported that the tablet-tech boom is changing the face of restaurants, i.e., DoorDash, UberEats and GrubHub and the myriad of others. Yes, these services are creating unexpected revenue streams for hot-to-trot restaurants, but on the other hand, these apps are also causing customer service nightmares as restaurants struggle to create an inner-department (of sorts) dedicated to the takeout-lovers of the nation.
In a recent interview with U.S.News.com, Maxwell Cohen, co-owner of the the trendy San Francisco restaurant, Proposition Chicken, notes that she has four tablets from various delivery companies crowding the restaurant’s counter nowadays, each competing with walkin-based customers looking to enjoy their dining experience in-house.
“When there is a ping, a cashier finds the right tablet and then retypes the order into the restaurant’s own system, which tells the kitchen to start cooking. ‘It’s a dance up there,” said Cohen. ‘It takes a lot of training and some getting used to, juggling the orders coming in from the various iPads, the customers in line and the phone ringing.’”
The want-it-right-now mentality that currently permeates society has indeed spread to the food realm, so yes, with just a few app downloads and a click or two, you can have a 5-star meal delivered to your door in less time than it takes to order and wait inside a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The implications of this will be interesting, as we may see restaurant owners slimming down their counters in response, or upping their in-house kitchen staff to accommodate a new online customer who wants what it wants—now.
DID YOU KNOW?
“In the sea of food delivery options available to hungry Americans, there is still just one dominant force: GrubHub. The original food delivery giant (which merged with Seamless in 2013), brought food to 8.75 million people in the first quarter of 2017 alone. They averaged 324,000 customers per day. That’s a total of $898 million worth of rushed breakfasts, office lunches, and too-lazy-to-cook dinners, in just the first three months of year.” —via FoodandWine.com
3. BIG FISH MOVING TO A BIGGER POND
From the City of Brotherly Love, The Associated Press reported, “The Big Fish Restaurant Group, which owns a chain of seafood eateries in Delaware and Pennsylvania, has purchased the Wilmington restaurants the Washington Street Ale House and Mikimotos Asian Grill and Sushi Bar as well as Stingray Restaurant in Rehoboth Beach.” Philly-area foodies may be interested to know that The Big Fish Restaurant Group already runs three Northeast restaurants: Bella Coast Italian Kitchen & Market on Concord Pike, Trolley Square Oyster House on Delaware Avenue and the Big Fish Grill on the Wilmington Riverfront. More interesting, the Big Fish Group is ramping up plans for a $23-million project for a seven-story, 122-room hotel and banquet hall attached to the existing 275-seat Big Fish Grill on the Riverfront. So, smart idea, no need to dine-and-dash. With this concept becoming more popular, restaurant groups are smartly blending dining, trendy bars and hip hotels to give foodies the best of both worlds.
4. FALAWESOME NEWS
SoCal falafel-lovers of Luna Grill can celebrate, as Nation’s Restaurant News caught wind of some exciting news: “Luna Grill, the San Diego-based Mediterranean concept, […] has received an investment from the private equity firm PWP Growth Equity.” Excitingly, this means that its co-founders, Sean and Maria Pourteymour, will hopefully have the resources they need to expand Luna Grill—a San Diego staple since 2004—to 38 locations across Southern California and even Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.
5. PIE IN THE SKY
Here’s some more piping hot news, this time from down south, straight out of Atlanta, Ga. On Sept. 15, the Global Franchise Group (GFG) acquired Round Table Pizza, now adding to the Atlanta-based owners’ portfolio of Great American Cookies, Hot Dog on a Stick and Marble Slab Creamery (creator of Maggie Moose’s Ice Cream) and Pretzelmaker—a growing 450-unit pizza chain. This will make the fifth brand to GFG’s growing portfolio. Prior to the acquisition, Round Table was an employee-owned company.
“Round Table employee owners have seen a dramatic increase in their equity over the last six years and this deal allows them to reap the rewards of their hard work and dedication to making Round Table pizza what it is today and getting the brand to this moment,” said Jack Robertson, chairman of Round Table Pizza, in a statement to Nation’s Restaurant News.
6. FINALLY VINDUCKATED!
Animal-lovers can give themselves a pat of the back, while purveyors of foie-gras may illicit a silent groan, Reuters reported this month, “A federal appeals court has revived a California state law banning the sale of foie gras made from force-fed birds. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a January 2015 lower court ruling striking down the law, saying the judge erred in concluding that the ban conflicted with a federal law governing the production of poultry products.”
The basic premise argued by animal rights activists focused on the “forced feeding” aspect of cultivating this poultry product and it appears the appeals court concurs. As reported, Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Nguyen of Pasadena, “Agreed with defenders of the ban that California had the right to prohibit a practice deemed cruel and inhumane, and that the state could regulate the type of poultry sold for human consumption.”
7. PANERA IS ON A ROLL
If you’re a child of the ‘80s era, you might recall that one of the now-most popular bread-based chains, Panera Bread, was no more than a humble little Missouri-based bread chain named St. Louis Bread Co. “That is, until the same guys who founded Au Bon Pain in 1981 eventually bought up those shops and transformed them into the trusty Panera we know and love today, according to Delish.com.
According to Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), “Pan American Group LLC, a subsidiary of giant San Francisco-based franchisee Flynn Restaurant Group, which operates Panera Bread restaurants, has acquired 34 more locations in Kansas and Missouri from Wichita, Kansas-based Original Bread Inc.”
In case you’re unfamiliar with Flynn Restaurant Group, you should know it’s Applebee’s largest franchisee, and Taco Bell’s third-largest operator, with the company’s overall portfolio boasting 881 restaurants in 30 states, according to NRN. The deal also represents an exit from Panera operations for the first franchisee of St. Louis Bread Co., Panera’s predecessor.
“As I look back, I’m truly awed to have been involved in the growth of this dynamic concept,” said Simon, CEO of Original Bread, in a press release. “Our team is confident that Flynn Restaurant Group will carry on our standards of excellence in service and our preeminence in community involvement.”
DID YOU KNOW?
PANERA WAS THE FIRST NATIONAL CHAIN TO LIST CALORIE COUNTS
“Before McDonald’s started shilling kale salad, Panera led the healthy eating revolution by doing something that’s now considered commonplace: It was the first to start listing calorie counts on menus. In addition to that, it also removed all artificial trans fats from the menu in 2005 and completely eliminated artificial ingredients from its ingredients in January 2017. Their soup menu is officially free of artificial additives, though it took over 60 tries to make the Broccoli Cheddar Soup ‘clean’!” —via Delish.com
8. WORTH THE WAIT
For the first time in over a decade, the United States made it back onto the coveted World’s Best Restaurant List. And for what it’s worth, this is only the second time in the list’s 15-year history that a U.S.-based eatery has ever even made it on the list.
The first time honors went to Northern California’s French Laundry way back in ‘04. This year’s winner, (insert drumroll, please) hails from the East Coast, so with a big round of applause, a huge shoutout to this year’s winner goes to: Eleven Madison Park of New York City. And good luck getting a reservation anytime soon, as I’m sure foodies like us are already circling like vultures to get ‘in’ on the action.
Have you heard any interesting foodie leaks that we haven’t uncovered yet? Drop us a line in the Comments Section, we’re always listening. Or do you have a suggestion for a restaurant topic you’d like us to cover—let us know!