What trends will emerge — or accelerate — in the restaurant industry in 2013? Food, marketing, technology, equipment, whatever?
We asked some of our most trusted experts for their opinions and came up with this compilation:
"The restaurant industry will continue to be challenged by rising commodities prices. Fraud will continue to trend upward with increases in credit card skimming, and theft schemes; and the threat of late night robbery is ever present (particularly as more restaurants add more hours). Mitigating and preventing these losses with sound loss prevention strategies must become a priority to stay competitive in the marketplace."
— Libby Libhart, CPP, president, LossBusters
"Restaurants have a unique opportunity to engage customers on their mobile phones. Mobile phones will be the common link between word of mouth, (WOM), social media, and customers. Customers will use mobile phones to share their WOM about restaurant brands through social media. For operators, the opportunity is to increase the positive WOM and respond to and mitigate negative WOM through one-to-one conversations with customers."
— Jitendra Gupta, CEO of Punchh
"What we're seeing trending now is the flexibility of how and when employers hire employees. The need for a more stringent pre-screening process will be asked for, especially at the entry-level. Also, the need for a flexible way of recruiting per position — such as only wanting to collect resumes and basic applications for an entry-level position, but requiring a full pre-screen through a recruiting tool for management positions — will become more of the norm. It'll be all about human resource management tools catering to the employer, not necessarily the employer fitting into the mold of the tool. With the addition of Obamacare, we'll see tax credit screening become more prevalent."
— Lisa DiVirgillio, director, WyckWyre Food & Hospitality
"We predict fast casual pizza will be a $5 billion a year category in 10 years, approximately 10 percent of U.S. pizza sales."
— Uncle Maddio's "Chief Pizza Maker" Matt Andrew
- "Great food, great service will still lead the way in 2013. This will always be the case.
- Health care will cause some operators to reconsider growth plans.
- Nutrition will be a big topic but folks will still reward themselves.
- Choice will be king."
— Paul Pitas, director of Public Relations & Communications, Culver's
"For 2013, restaurant brands will get increasingly visual. Restaurant brands are rethinking the opportunity for visual engagement, merchandising and visual content marketing. It's an opportunity to re-imagine how to tell a brand story in a visual way, but more importantly how to solicit the same level of involvement in brand story-telling from consumers. Agencies that figure out visual marketing communications for their clients will be recognized contributors to the brand overall, not just PR or advertising."
— Linda Duke, CEO, Duke Marketing LLC
"People's lives are getting more fast-paced every day. We're working on some really exciting tech innovations out of Silicon Valley that will predict our customer's ordering habits, making our famous Chicago-style pizza available at the push of a button."
— Bill Freeman, co-founder and CEO of Patxi's Pizza
"Customer loyalty defines great organizations. The New Year will see brands using more advanced technology to communicate with and reward customers. Brands that develop streamlined communication with their customers, listen to what is being said, and reward loyalty will rise to the top.
— Hoyt Jones, president, Jersey Mike's Subs
"First thing on my hit list will be expanding our dayparts by adding some very cool breakfast items like pizza pancakes and calzones. Second is catering. We have just signed up with Monkey Media and we are rolling out our new catering program, hoping to make a big difference for our stores' bottom line. Pizza is the king of take-out but off premise catering is an entirely separate segment and can add a lot of money to the bottom line. I also think you will see more and more pizza guys adding seating and TVs to their stores. The sports bar concept is a hot one and what goes better with sports than pizza? This will also be the year of sharing, giving back to the community; a very hot trend that seem to be getting hotter, and I am so glad."
— Marla Topliff, president, Rosati's Pizza
"One trend we're seeing is an increased merging of technology and consumer experience in the restaurant. As ordering and payment shifts to mobile and tablets, consumers are taking direct control of the experience and it makes the integration of all these systems ever more critical."
— Duessa Holscher, marketing & solutions manager, Granbury Restaurant Solutions
"Snagajob's Magic 8-ball predicts that restaurant hiring will continue to grow in 2013 as QSRs determine both the best balance of part-time and full-time workers for their business and the bottom-line impact getting the right people into those roles. To keep up with the competition and stave off rising hard costs, busy owners and operators will turn to technology, such as pre-employment assessments, to help them identify the best available workers quickly and cost effectively."
— Jason Hamilton, vice president of marketing for Snagajob
"I see the need for a nutritional partner for every single restaurant concept being bigger then ever. Just having a chef or concept chef try to configure healthy and yummy items will not be enough for the patrons. They are going to be looking for full disclosure about nutritional info, allergens, sourcing and all sorts of deep details on any new menu items and even a great deal of the current ones. Also the increase of gluten free and the insane jump in food allergy needs will make training be a 'must do' for 2013 with the ability to prove and show effort to make people comfortable to eat in your locations. Simply saying it is gluten free is not going to be enough, you will need to have the menu and staff certified by a professional organization to show full commitment."
— Betsy Craig, CEO, MenuTrinfo LLC and Kitchens with Confidence LLC
"I believe a restaurant food trend that we can expect to see during 2013 is 'Portable Menus.' Portable Menus reflect restaurant executives trying to sell their core menu products in expanded venues like food trucks, convenience stores, vending machines and retail grocery stores. This trend will grow as store counts reach a saturation point for some brands, and restaurant executives look for new revenue streams."
— Darrel R. Suderman, PhD, president of Food Technical Consulting and founder of Food Innovation Institute
"Consumers are hooked on apps and web browsing via smartphones. If you do not have your menu online and available for these devices, you had better get to it. Throw in tablets and the circle is complete. If you personally don't use these devices to order food, it doesn't matter, your customers do. Stop spending money on old school stuff like marriage mail. Shift to email marketing and online ordering now. If you are not willing, my advice is to not sign any long-term leases, you have a year or two left, before your competition takes enough of your business to put you under. Go Mobile or Go Home."
— Ed Zimmerman, president of The Food Connector
Read more about restaurant trends.
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.