The start of a new year always brings with it countless trend forecasts for the months ahead – and nowhere is this more true than in the restaurant industry, where there are so many predictions about the next dish du jour that it borders on the ridiculous. So over the past few weeks, we’ve carefully dissected multiple trend lists and identified three food industry trends of 2017 that have longevity, impact and are particularly relevant to restaurant owners.

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Waste Not, Want Not
If 2016 represented a collective awakening to the issue of food waste, this year represents the tipping point. No longer just the realm of celebrity chefs hosting pop-up “food scrap restos,” food waste has become a global issue. Leading the charge is Anthony Bourdain, who is producing and starring in a soon-to-be-released documentary that will tackle the food waste epidemic. Large supermarket chains are also getting in on the action, with Loblaws promoting “ugly produce” in their stores and Whole Foods actively supporting brands that use food scraps in innovative ways.

Clearly this is more than just a passing fad, and it’s something that restaurant owners of all types should pay attention to. Now is the time to consider how you can implement food-saving initiatives in your own operations. It speaks to your commitment to environmentally friendly practices, which will be popular with your customers, and can result in cost savings.

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Instagrammable Meals
Another industry trend we’ve noticed is the growing number of restaurants that are creating new food and drink offerings specifically to entice their patrons to share on social media. According to proprietary trend research company Cassandra.co, Millennials are continually seeking out “share worthy” dining experiences to post on Instagram and elsewhere. From coffee shop chains to cocktail lounges, the industry is responding accordingly by intentionally developing menu items that are visually striking and increase the likelihood of being shared on social media. Even the basic latte has been jazzed up, now appearing in all shades of the rainbow, from yellow (turmeric) to pink (beetroot) to blue (algae).

While it’s not necessary to go as far as NYC’s 2nd City taco spot, which was “literally built for the Instagram-addicted set,” there is something to be learned from their approach. The chef has spoken openly about his strategy to attract diners with colourful dishes and cheeky names for items on his menu. What’s important for restaurant owners to pay attention to here is the potential for driving more sales by adding distinctive, trendy novelty items to your menu. How can you create Instagrammable moments at your dining establishment? Some food for thought!

Insects For Dinner
With growing concerns about climate change and the knowledge that raising livestock accounts for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, many in the restaurant industry are taking a good hard look at alternative sources of protein. One extremely viable option appears to be insects. Recently we’ve seen grocery chains begin to stock cricket flour, while numerous brands of protein bars made with insects are appearing on shelves. Meeru Dhalwala, chef and co-owner of the wildly popular Indian restaurant Vij’s, has been a vocal advocate of bugs for years, even serving naan bread made from cricket flour in the past. This year we expect to see more influential restaurants across North America follow suit.

While the ick factor is admittedly a challenge for restauranteurs, insects are an all-around win: they are economical, a nutritional powerhouse, require much less water to raise than other crops, and produce far less greenhouse gas emissions. They are the eco-friendly protein option of the future and represent an interesting possibility for restaurants, whether you’re keen to be seen as an industry leader setting new trends or want to establish a more responsible environmental footprint.

Author Trish Hudson

Trish is the owner and principal at Holistic Hospitality Solutions. She aims to help assess her clients operations from top to bottom in order to gain efficiencies, save money, and increase their bottom line.

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