As the business world says goodbye to the past year and prepares to welcome the next, the restaurant industry continues to evolve, adapting to new challenges and embracing emerging opportunities. Understanding and anticipating trends is essential to staying ahead in an ever-changing and highly competitive market. From shifts in diner behavior and food preferences to technological advancements that revolutionize operational efficiency, restaurant professionals should prepare for another dynamic transformation.
The MeazureUp team has done a roundup of industry forecasts, and we can report that 2024 promises a mix of exciting trends. Economic shifts will impact in-house and takeout dining trends. We’ll see sustainability take center stage as consumers increasingly demand eco-friendly practices, a surge in health and wellness-focused offerings reflecting a growing consciousness about what we serve, and a push towards local sourcing that champions community engagement. Technology, too, will play a pivotal role, with innovations in AI, automation, and data analytics set to streamline operations and enhance customer experiences. As the industry navigates these trends, one aspect will remain constant—the need to drive revenue by building and maintaining brand consistency across locations.
Diner Trends: What’s Coming in 2024
The pandemic years drastically altered the landscape of dining, accelerating a permanent shift toward takeout and delivery services. Even as that trend continues unabated, we’ll see a renewed interest in in-house dining experiences in the coming year, albeit with new expectations from consumers.
1. The Rise of “Eatertainment”
Watch out for an increase in “eatertainment” concepts in the coming year – dining venues that combine food with entertainment such as live music, interactive games, or unique culinary presentations. Consumers enjoy the ambiance, the human connection, and the overall experience that comes with dining out. Restaurants are no longer just spaces for eating; they have become destinations for social interaction and experiential dining. These experiences provide something that takeout simply cannot replicate, adding a layer of excitement and engagement to the traditional dining model.
2. Diners Choose Sustainability
Sustainability will be a powerful trend shaping diner preferences in 2024. Consumers have become increasingly aware of their environmental footprint and are making dining choices that align with their values. This shift is leading restaurants to adopt sustainable practices in food sourcing, preparation, and in their overall operations. From reducing energy consumption with efficient lighting and appliances to minimizing waste through recycling and composting programs, restaurants are rethinking their impact on the planet. This approach will resonate deeply with diners, who spend their dining dollars at establishments that demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship.
3. Takeout and Delivery Remain Popular
Takeout and delivery will continue to have an impact. The pandemic introduced many to the ease of ordering food with just a few clicks, and this habit persists. While in-house dining is enjoying a revival, the convenience and comfort of takeout and delivery services continue to hold strong appeal, with 26% of American households enjoying these alternatives at least once a week in 2023. In response, restaurants will continue to innovate in their takeout and delivery options, ensuring that the quality of food and the overall experience matches that of in-house dining. Packaging will become more sophisticated, incorporating sustainable materials more often. Menus will be modified to ensure dishes travel well and maintain their intended flavor and presentation upon arrival. Many restaurants will adopt a hybrid model that caters to the full spectrum of customer preferences, offering a memorable in-house experience while also providing top-notch takeout and delivery services to diners who want the flexibility to choose based on shifting needs or circumstances.
Food Trends to Expect Next Year
Consumer food preferences are always changing. 2024’s most successful brands will do more than respond to evolving taste. They will actively shape these trends, creating customer relationships along the way.
4. More Plant-Based and Alternative Proteins
Plant-based and alternative proteins will continue to grab market share in the coming year. With a growing awareness of traditional meat production’s environmental impact, consumers are increasingly embracing plant-based diets. Restaurants will respond by expanding their menus to include a variety of plant-based options that go beyond salads and extend to innovative meat alternatives. From plant-based burgers that mimic the taste and texture of beef to creative uses of legumes and mushrooms, the culinary world will redefine what it means to be a plant-based eater.
5. Increasingly Health-Conscious Menus
Be on the lookout for a growing shift toward health-conscious dishes. Industry leaders are recognizing the role of food in overall wellness and will curate restaurant menus that reflect this understanding. This will include offering dishes rich in superfoods, probiotics, and antioxidants, catering to a clientele eating both for taste and health benefits. Ingredients like turmeric, ginger, and matcha will find their way into mainstream menus, providing both flavor and functional benefits. Clean eating and transparency will emerge as key themes. To build trust with diners, restaurants will need to focus on dishes that are wholesome and minimally processed while being upfront about their ingredients and cooking methods.
6. Global Flavors and Fusion Cuisine
2024 will be a year in which global flavors and fusion cuisine dominate. As diners become more adventurous, chefs will explore bold combinations, bringing together diverse culinary traditions to create something entirely new. This trend will celebrate cultural diversity, with menus featuring dishes that blend flavors from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and beyond. Fusion cuisine will serve as a testament to life in an increasingly globalized world, where boundaries blur and flavors unite.
7. Artisanal and Craft Foods
Momentum around artisanal and craft foods will continue to build. More restaurants will showcase handcrafted items, such as artisan bread, house-made cheeses, or craft beers. This trend will reflect a desire for authenticity and quality, with diners willing to pay a premium for foods that are made with care, expertise, and high-quality ingredients.
2024 Restaurant Tech Trends
Technology will continue to revolutionize the restaurant industry in 2024, reshaping every aspect from front-of-house operations to back-of-house efficiencies. These technological advancements will enhance the overall dining experience and streamline operations, helping leaders to cut costs, boost profits, and ensure brand consistency across multiple locations.
8. Front-of-House Innovations
Technology will revolutionize front-of-house operations at all restaurants. 73% of diners report that technology improves their experience. 2024 will see expanded adoption of digital menus and ordering systems, often integrated with customer-facing tablets or mobile apps. These systems provide a more interactive and engaging menu browsing experience and streamline the ordering process in understaffed restaurants, reducing wait times and human error. Get ready to use AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants for reservations and customer inquiries. These tools offer immediate responses, enhancing the overall customer service experience. Contactless payment methods will also become more prevalent, offering a seamless and secure transaction process that aligns with the growing consumer preference for digital transactions.
9. Streamlined Back-of-House Operations
Technology will play a crucial role in streamlining operations and improving back-of-house efficiency. Advanced inventory management systems, powered by AI and machine learning, will help restaurants predict inventory needs, reduce waste, and manage costs. These systems will track stock levels in real time, automatically reorder supplies, and even suggest menu adjustments based on ingredient availability. Kitchen automation will gain traction as well. Robotics and automated cooking appliances will assist with repetitive tasks, ensuring consistency in food preparation and allowing kitchen staff to focus on more complex culinary tasks. These innovations will be in high demand, as they mitigate the challenges posed by labor shortages.
10. Digital Solutions for Brand Consistency and Field Assessments
Perhaps the most impactful tech trend in 2024 will be the use of digital solutions to improve brand consistency and boost the impact of field assessments. Digital checklists and audit tools like MeazureUp’s AuditApp will be increasingly valuable to multi-unit restaurant operations. These tools standardize processes and ensure compliance across all locations, maintaining a consistent brand experience for customers regardless of which outlet they visit.
The application of digital tools will extend to training and compliance. The data they collect and disseminate provides valuable insights into areas of improvement, helping restaurants uphold quality and consistency in every aspect of their service. Label printing and temperature monitoring integrations boost food safety practices. With real-time monitoring, reporting, and photo/video capabilities, these platforms identify issues as they occur. Managers can implement training to address recurring gaps.
Integrating these cutting-edge solutions with other management systems provides a holistic view of the operations, allowing for informed decision-making and strategic planning. This integration ensures that every aspect of the restaurant’s operation, from customer service to kitchen efficiency, aligns with the brand’s standards and expectations.
Prepare Now to Embrace 2024 Restaurant Trends
Next year’s front-of-house, back-of-house, and technology restaurant trends will demonstrate commitment to improved efficiency, enhanced diner experiences, and unwavering brand integrity. At MeazureUp, we are excited to watch them pave the way for a thriving and customer-centric industry.
Are you ready to embrace the change that 2024 will bring? Get to know the digital solution that cuts costs, increases profits, and streamlines operations. Schedule a demo of MeazureUp today.