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Today’s guest blog will be from Andrew Freeman, one of the most respected names in the food business in San Francisco. Andrew talks about the food trends he sees in 2018 in his own articulate and inimitable style!

What are the year’s biggest food trends and how can foodservice operators capitalize on them? That’s what we set out to answer in our 2018 trend report. As an innovative restaurant & hospitality consulting firm with clients across the country, we are deep in the trenches of understanding what drives consumers choices in  restaurants, food, wine, spirits and travel.

There’s been a lot of change to deal with over the past few year- economic, political and social factors as well as significant cultural shifts in the way people use restaurants and hotels. That leads us to our overarching theme for 2018: There’s only one thing we can count on, and it’s … nothing. Change is here to stay, and this year’s top trends reflect the industry’s acceptance of this state. Successful restaurants, hotels and foodservice companies are turning creativity into innovation and adapting faster than ever. Hold on tight, folks. For your best chance at thriving, it’s time to dig in to the following trends and embrace the craziness. Our full trend report is available on our website here, but we’ve pulled a few we think our salad-loving friends here will find the most interesting.

  • Veganism is here to stay! Tastes have changed and even the happiest of carnivores enjoys a vegetarian dish. Vegetables will be all up in your grill in 2018 (literally, sometimes), as entrees like grilled cauliflower “steaks” and jackfruit tacos become standard. Stay on the lookout for artisan vegan cheese from companies including Kite Hill, a Silicon Valley startup, and an influx of vegan delis producing convincing faux items such as bacon, peppered turkey, and feta from The Butchers Vegan Son in Berkeley.
  • Let’s Talk Trash. Reducing waste is a bigger priority than ever before. Creative ways to combat, utilize, and reduce trash are reflected in the kitchen and elsewhere. Imperfect Produce, a company that delivers discount ugly produce, has been expanding as the ugly trend catches on, and startups including Iron Ox and Plenty are introducing the sustainable benefits of hydroponic farming to the masses.
  • It’s a lifestyle choice! People see through anything too promotional, paving the way for a new wave of marketing – selling a lifestyle. Restaurants and hotels are pushing concepts that speaks to the lifestyle of someone who would eat, dine, or stay there. Think community events, a focus on fashion, and partnerships to tell a comprehensive story instead of overtly pushing food and beverages. It’s all about humanizing and telling the story of the people in 2018! People want to escape and be entertained, not overtly sold to.
  • Superfoods are super popular! Vegetables are being celebrated for their health properties. Lookout for purple foods including blueberries, which contain antioxidants that may prevent against cell damage from free radicals. Mushrooms are showing up in unexpected places including teas, broths and coffees, and microgreens are a double whammy of color and superfood power. Vegetables have gone mainstream. Guests are knowledgeable about the health benefits and expect options.
  • It’s a customization nation. I want my salad how I want my salad… and I want a lot of good stuff in it! We are entering the age of quality, speed and customization. There’s a flexible food experience to fit all needs, and more inventive solutions than ever before. This is also really challenging for operators, because customization isn’t possible with pre-packaged foods and made to order requires labor. But it’s what they want! (We’re big fans of the custom salads from Sally the Salad Robot for this reason. And not just because we’re their marketing and public relations agency! We love their fresh, flexible salad solutions that show up in locations both expected and unexpected.) The rise in customizable salad options have also led to the popularity of the “goodies-only” salad. Yup, everything but the lettuce. There’s something for everyone here.

Change is going to keep coming, and the hospitality and foodservice industries will have to keep adapting. It’s time to come together, cheer each other along, and prepare ourselves for another year of battle. You can do it! We can do it!  We’re predicting sunny skies ahead, but the flight there is going to be turbulent. It’s time to embrace, adapt, innovate, and overcome.

You can find the full af&co. 2018 trend report here or email us at [email protected] with your thoughts, questions or predictions of your own.  We’d love to talk shop with you!