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10 Exciting Dining Trends to Be Served Up in 2018

10 Exciting Dining Trends to Be Served Up in 2018

10 Exciting Dining Trends to Be Served Up in 2018

From the evolution of vegetable dishes and a new focus on botanicals, to a deeper need for personalised customer interactions and ownership of ethical responsibilities – here are 10 Dining and Drink Trends Expected to Make an Impact in 2018:

  1. A Greater Focus on the Experience of Dining.

    There are a growing number of diners who want more from the overall experience offered by a restaurant, and are spending less time focusing on just the appearance of a dish to share across their social channels. These people don’t want technology interfering with their dining at all when they’re enjoying a meal out.
    Michelin starred Chef Michel Roux was criticised by some for forbidding cameras at the dining table in one of his restaurants, but this desire to appreciate the food and the overall atmosphere, has gained traction with some customers. People are still influenced by what they see on social media, especially from friends, family, Influencers and Celebrities, but there is less of a frantic need to share every dish or drink regardless of its quality, leading to more interesting and beautifully presented plates being seen more often.

    To stand out from the crowd, restaurants need to continue delivering style and substance with their dishes – but this has to be complimented by the atmosphere and experience offered by the venue, and the knowledge and capabilities of the staff.In 2018, I see more interest in sourcing.  With consumers becoming more intelligent about where their food comes from, kitchens will get questions on the topic.  Local and organic products will always be in higher demand.  In restaurants, I think plating intended for guests to share will become increasingly common, and of course, clever chefs will approach dishes with an eye on Instagram and other social media.’
    Courtney Brandt, Founder of A to Za’atar

  2. Dining Out is A More Attractive Option than Delivery

     With a wider range of delivery options, types of cuisine and menu items available, consumers have been tempted away from restaurants in favour of eating in the comfort of their own home. But with more restaurants offering events and interesting opportunities – such as wine pairing, live music, cooking classes, etc., customers are returning not just to enjoy the quality foods and drinks they can’t get at home, but to soak up the atmosphere, create emotional bonds and new connections as they rediscover their love of the hospitality experience. When speaking to our Influencers, monitoring review sites and examining social media analytics, some of the most frequent complaints, and reasons for not returning to a restaurant are:

  • Inattentive or Rude Serving Staff
  • Table not Ready on Time
  • Meals not Looking or Tasting Like the Menu Description
  • Serving Staff Who Read Back the Menu Description When Asked for More Information on a Particular Dish
  • Dirty Utensils or Table – These are all small matters that can easily be addressed with additional training or attention to detail,
    but they make a big impact on the customer and their impression of your establishment.More and more people are dining out as a hobby – it is not just an event for special occasions. Platforms such as FooDiva offer Culinary Tours such as ‘Dine Around Dubai’, which offers fine dining excursions that take their guests on a gastronomic adventure. Diners are looking to discover new dishes, atmospheres, events and venues – whether it’s fusion foods, grandmother cooking or entirely new experiences such as offering cheese tea,  your restaurant needs to provide a positive, memorable experience and offer enough variation in dishes, promotions or events, to appeal to these patrons and encourage them to return again and again.
    Building relationships
    and taking a hands-on approach to ensuring the happiness of your customers, inside and out of your restaurant, is one of the best ways to encourage them to tell others about your venue, and become a repeat customer. With trained and enthusiastic staff who are attentive and friendly, and can offer information and insights beyond what is written in the menu, customers will feel more of an emotional connection, and develop loyalty towards your brand.
  1. Sustainability Is A Consumer Worry that Needs Addressing

    When creating the menu, Chefs have more understanding and power to implement sustainable changes by choosing produce from companies that treat the environment, their workers and their ingredients with due attention and care. With more focus on healthier eating and a growing global interest in how ingredients are sourced, and from where – restaurants are able to position themselves as ethically and morally responsible, and attract the growing number of clients who take this into consideration when making their dining choices. People are looking for more from businesses when it comes to environmental and ethical responsibilities. With technological advances making it extremely easy to find out information about a company at any time, in almost any place – those who have a disconnect between the values they promote, and how they source their ingredients, products or staff, will soon be found out – causing massive damage to reputation, trust and the bottom line.

    Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility is a concern that all restaurants need to address. There is growing sentiment amongst consumers, other businesses and environmental institutions, that every business should be doing their part towards the protection of workers and the conservation of the environment. Recent examples of big businesses adopting this approach include British Pub-Chain Wetherspoons who began phasing out the use of plastic straws last Autumn, and D&D London who have now taken the step of banning plastic straws in all 40 of their establishments and replacing them with Eco-friendly substitutes.

    By finding alternatives that better protects the environment; businesses can balance their financial needs against their moral and ethical obligations, and find a solution that works for everyone.

  2. The Growth of Micro-Greens and Attractive Culinary Cocktails

    We are seeing Cocktails, Mocktails and Stocktails increasingly becoming part of the meal – rather than an optional extra chosen on a whim. There is a greater collaboration between the kitchen and the bar, as Chefs and Mixologists work together to use ingredients that would have once been unusual in drinks – such as gravy, kale or camel’s milk, to accentuate the dishes and add a deeper element to the experience a restaurant is delivering to the customer.
    Customers are willing to pay more for fresh, original and exciting drinks that have unique identities or offer them a brand new experience. As well as providing interesting cocktails, there is a rise in the consumption of Mocktails – with these alcohol free alternatives appealing to those that either can’t or don’t want to drink – whether it is for religious reasons, due to disability, or being a designated driver for the evening.
    By offering a wider variety of non-alcoholic beverages, restaurants move away from the traditional juice, water, soda options and can stand out from the crowd with Signature Drinks (cocktails, Mocktails and /or Stocktails) that will encourage guests to purchase and share their findings with friends, family and social media connections. Microgreens are often generally thought to be limited to cresses and mustards – but the wide range now available has completely changed the ability to finish a dish with a particular flavour. Where they were traditionally used to deliver colour and a finesse of flavour to a finished dish, they are becoming increasingly popular outside of fine-dining circles, and with customers who are looking to focus on health-benefits and experiencing trendy dishes.

    With a quality supplier who has carefully cultivated his crops, micro-greens prove that a small taste difference can make a big impact on the plate.

  3. An Increase In The Range of Plant-Based Dishes on Offer

    Chefs are experimenting and offering dishes with a plant-base rather than a traditional protein, and this is being well received by customers who are looking to try innovative new dishes, monitor their health, and search for creative alternatives that cater to their specific dietary needs. Customers are looking beyond the traditional categories of food – healthy or not, and want dishes that will cater to the specific needs of their lifestyle. From foods that promote healthier skin, to healthy snacks that freshen breath – consumers want to be inspired with new innovations that have the benefits clearly spelled out for them.

    ‘Virtually every government in the developed world is concerned about public health and together with many qualified experts are campaigning and raising concerns about the “artificial” content of the food we consume. As a result, there is an increasing public trend towards consumption of “functional foods” – both fresh and naturally preserved foodstuff from which the consumer can clearly perceive “health and flavour benefits”.  Today, there is an increasing demand for functional foods that are unadulterated and many well-known chefs have been ahead of the game for some time – albeit at a premium to their customers. Slowly, the trend of offering fresh and unadulterated foods is filtering down to the retail-dining sector and we are seeing a shift towards more innovative functional food items on the menus of fast casual and fast food outlets.’
    David Learman, Founder of Creative Intelligence

  4. A More Exciting Range of Vegetarian and Vegan Options on the Menu

    Gone are the days when a vegetarian or vegan alternative on the menu was a second thought. Focus on different diets – such as low carb and flexitarianism, means that customers expect a wider range of stunning dishes to choose from.
    It is no longer acceptable to have one or two simple and often boring dishes, as the Vegetarian or Vegan option. There is such an incredible scope for creativity, that we’re seeing customers who usually eat meat, choosing these dishes instead. Ingredients such as aubergine (eggplant), courgette (zucchini), cauliflower, mushrooms,  and a growing interest in using Ancient Grains (such as Khorasan Wheat [Kamut], Spelt, and Lupin) are encouraging creative new dishes and innovative substitutions to ingredients in classic meat-based ones.

    ‘2018 will see a greater demand for healthy options, and I believe we will see ever more vegetarian and vegan dishes on menus. In addition operators (especially in the fast and casual dining segments) would be well advised to start providing nutritional information for their dishes.’
    Akshay Oberai Dosaj, Managing Director Purple Honey Group


  5. Smoked Ingredients Used in Innovative Dishes Across the Menu

    Traditionally, smoking methods have been largely confined to meats and some condiments. But as people experiment with different woods, smoking techniques are being applied to vegetables, salts, butter and spices. There are even innovations being offered on the dessert menu.
    Generally, Customers who are interested in the smoked products are looking for a more refined plate, rather than one which contains a heavy sauce that obscures the taste and texture of the dish.With Street Food and Barbeque bringing the method back to the forefront of consumer consciousness, dishes are being taken to the next level – offering a unique differentiation from competitors with a technique that is now less expensive than it once was. Some venues have their own dedicated smoking room to offer their customers consistent quality and a point of attraction.

  6. Growth in the Use of Floral Flavourings and Middle Eastern Spices

    Having edible flowers as garnish has been popular for some time, but customers are now experiencing dishes that focus on accentuating the flavour of the flowers – rather than just focusing on their appearance. Flowers such as Gladiolus, Impatiens, and Safflower, are some of the more unusual blooms making their way into main dishes and the dessert menu, and are expected to be particularly popular during the spring and summer months. Middle Eastern herbs and spices, such as coriander, anise and harissa are expected to trend in 2018 as more customers look towards global inspiration for their meals, and a desire to try something new.

  7. A Greater Number of Exciting Pop-Up Events to Be Held

    Pop-Up Events range from food trucks to one-off events, and opening micro-stores in specially designated locations, that allow customers to come and see what sort of food you specialise in, what promotions you can offer them – and gives them an interesting experience that makes them want to visit your full time venue. Customers enjoy the exclusiveness of interacting with a time-limited experience – especially when they are being offered menu items they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else at any other time. For Pop-Up events to work successfully they have to be carefully and creatively marketed, with the excitement and uniqueness of the opportunity highlighted to create a buzz and generate interest with your audience – the more your social channels engage and encourage people to attend, the better your Pop-Up will perform, as your customers encourage their connections to attend as well. By positioning your Pop Up as a ‘must attend’ event your customers are able to see what your restaurant is about, gauge what sort of food and atmosphere it serves, and the potential for excitement and enjoyment they can gain from spending with you.

    On every project we work on, we are noticing unique F&B concepts and fusion restaurants propping up to meet the needs of the experimental consumers that live in the
     UAE. There appears to be a correlation between the diverse population and the ever-increasing demand for a unique dining experience.’
     – Imad Dajani, CEO febc

  8. You Must Adopt the Use of Frictionless Technology

Since the introduction of services such as Apple Pay and other contactless payment methods as well as self-ordering stations or pre-booking online, Frictionless technology has changed the
minimum expectations of the customer. Having Frictionless Technology working for your venue promotes a smooth customer journey from start to finish – and allows for a better experience.
From initially finding your venue and discovering what it is that you cook, to booking a table, dining and paying, then leaving feedback or reviews afterwards – your customers want this
process to be as easy and stress free as possible.

”There will be a marked shift from the traditional inside-out thinking to outside-in. Rapidly evolving technology and demographics will be increasingly central to planning and executing F&B concepts, that will need to be reverse engineered to accommodate pervasive trends”.
– Sanjay Duggal, http://www.menafa.com


Valuable Take-Aways from This Year’s Fresh Dining Trends

As we continue to move into 2018, some new ideas have already fizzled out and faded away, whilst others are growing in popularity. It’s always important to determine the difference between a ‘fad’ and a ‘trend’, and know the best ways to implement new ideas to keep your business fresh and relevant.

“2017 saw some explosive trends in the UAE with freak-shakes, tower burgers getting bigger and bolder and the sophisticated use of black through products such as black ink squid and charcoal. Looking ahead to 2018 the trends that I see cementing and becoming bigger, bolder and lasting past the upcoming twelve months are:

Health and food and beverage outlets continuing to cater to the growing number of customers demanding healthy options be it, calorie controlled, low sugar, gluten free, paleo, vegan, dairy or egg free and the list goes on. The trend will be complimented as chefs and operators to compete to make this food not only taste fantastic but look beautiful for those Instagram proud moments to boast not only are you looking after yourself but enjoying it as well! Produce is also now more important than technique with customers wanting to eat well with half an eye or stomach on provenance, sustainability, air miles/ carbon footprint and waste.

Specialty coffee will continue to grow and will complement the health hubs and meet the endless demand for boutique cafes and great tasting coffee/ instagrammable.

F&B is the new shopping! Super regional malls are switching on to the fact that with the growth of online shopping and consumers buying from the comfort of their home ,
alongside eating their home delivered restaurant food ( a trend that just keeps growing) customers are now going to malls or “entertainment centres” for just that, entertainment and leisure! The big mall developers and operators are handing over at least 35% of their leasable areas to F&B outlets and entertainment concepts in a bid to still draw the crowds and their disposable income as opposed to just relying on high street retailers and department stores “
Emma Banks, General Manager, Jumeirah Restaurant Group

Restaurants will need to:

  • Take your venue and menu to the next level, and do what can be done to enhance the Customer Experience for your Restaurant at every stage.
  • Provide a wide range of choices for different dietary requirements, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavours, or substituting ingredients in classic recipes with healthier or unusual alternatives.
  • Ensure that your service standards are consistent on and offline – let your customers know that they can expect an experience with you that they would get nowhere else.
  • Technology will continue to change the restaurant experience – both online and in the front of house. Knowing who your target audience are, and the level of interactive technology they expect from you is becoming more and more important.

“The successful restaurants and restauranteurs in 2018 and 2019 will be the ones who react quickly to the changes and challenges of the market,
in the micro-markets that they operate in” 

Vishal Pandey, Director, Middle East Food Forum.