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9 Restaurant Trends Shaping 2024 



As 2024 marches onward, several restaurant trends are redefining the ways consumers are choosing to experience and interact with food. In an industry that's responsive, progressive, and adaptive, the foodservice world is responding to the needs and desires of its clientele in one of the most transformative decades in restaurant history. 


From innovative late-night snacks to the resurgence of nostalgic comfort food, the dining landscape is evolving in new and unique ways. Underscoring a broader pattern within the foodservice industry to adapt and respond to consumer habits, these trends are key drivers of growth. 


2024 Restaurant Trends 



Late-Night Snacking 

As food chains continue to extend their hours to attract a younger demographic, the late-night snack segment saw a 4% growth in 2023. Particularly between the hours of 1 and 6 a.m., this  trend is not just about satisfying late-night cravings but also reflective of changing consumer patterns and lifestyles. 


Meeting the demands of younger consumers, this  demographic increasingly opts for convenient carry-out and delivery options. As more people continue working from home and on their own schedule, the late-night snacker is no longer just a member of the post-bar crowd, and is now serving the eating-while-you-work set.  



Bougie Breakfasts

A shift towards more extravagant morning dining is reshaping the day's first meal.  

While morning meal traffic remained stable in the third quarter of 2023, there was a notable increase in brunch traffic, which grew by 6%. This surge in brunch popularity reflects a growing interest in more sophisticated, leisurely morning dining experiences, especially on weekends.


Secret LTO Menu Items 

The allure of secret menu items is rapidly becoming a staple in  limited-service restaurants (LSRs). This trend capitalizes on the excitement and exclusivity of discovering and trying out special, often hidden, menu options.


A significant driver behind this phenomenon is customer engagement, with  diners expressing a keen interest in accessing special menu items as part of loyalty programs. This trend underscores a growing desire for personalized and unique dining experiences.

The trend aligns well with the practical realities of LSRs' inventory management as well. With just 20% of LSR operators purchasing new ingredients monthly or more frequently, repurposing existing ingredients to create these LTOs is a cost-effective and a clever way to drive traffic.



One-Handed Meals

As lifestyles settle back into a pre-2020 pace, the grab-n-go food trend  is witnessing a significant resurgence. Catering  to an increasing number of consumers seeking convenient, on-the-go meal options, mre and more diners are looking for meals they can easily consume while driving, working, or multitasking.


Stats to Consider

  • 29% of consumers are visiting quick service restaurants (QSRs) more often in 2024 than they were a year ago. 

  • 28% of consumers report that convenience is their primary motivator in choosing a QSR. 

  • Drive-thru lanes have become the most preferred service format in QSRs.

  • 1 in 5 visits to a QSR is eaten in a car.


And this trend is extending beyond traditional fast-food establishments, with consumers increasing their purchase of prepared food offerings from supermarkets.  This movement towards convenient dining solutions reflects a broader change in consumer habits and preferences, prioritizing efficiency and mobility.



Speed Scratch  

In today’s restaurant landscape, "speed scratch" is gaining traction as a strategic response to continuing labor shortages and increasing labor costs.   With the restaurant industry facing an unprecedented pivot to off-premise dining, restaurants are looking for more ways to maximize their existing labor force.


As restaurants make moves to takeout and delivery, many operators are experimenting with unique food formats such as build-your-own pizza, make-your-own sandwiches, and  meal kits containing everything necessary for putting together restaurant-quality meals at home. 


Whether it’s during a labor shortage or surplus, maximizing the labor already in the kitchen is necessary for success. Using easy-prep foods, such as ready-made sauces and pre cooked meats, restaurants can serve authentic meals with very little hands-on labor. Menu items like salads, gyros,  and wraps come together in mere minutes, allowing kitchen staff to fulfill plenty of orders in a short period of time, reducing stress levels among employees.  The faster orders get out, the happier customers are, and the more likely they are to keep coming back. 


Stats to Consider

  • High labor cost concerns remain at the forefront in 2024, with 55% of operators looking for ways to economize. 

  • 60% of restaurant owners are seeking products that help reduce food waste and minimize loss.

  • 56% of restaurant managers are searching for products that aid in cost-saving and profit management.

  • 33% of operators strive to simplify processes through reduced order complexities. 


Speed-scratch ingredients are good for more than fully prepared meals, too. Thanks to many of these foods’ 'heat and eat” format, operators can use them in family meal kits or build-your-own meal packages. These formats allow every person eating from the kit to get  exactly what they want without the need to place separate orders. Even better,  this method of ordering means there’s less room for error.


Global Flavors 

The culinary landscape continues to embrace  global flavors. Driven by the adventurous palates of Millennials and Gen Z, the growth of Peruvian and Caribbean cuisines is continuing in 2024. 

Stats to Consider

  • There's been a 15% increase in Peruvian dishes on menus in the past four years.  

  • Caribbean flavors have seen a 12% growth on menus over the past decade. 



Authentic Plant-Forward Foods

The movement towards plant-based foods made with real plants is gaining traction, as consumers are choosing the richness and diversity of ingredients beyond meat substitutes. 2024 will see a return to the basics such as veggie burgers and sides made from actual vegetables.


Stats to Consider

  • 29% of consumers increased their consumption of veggie-based proteins in 2023.

  • 27% of consumers are more likely to order plant-forward dinners from restaurants in the next year.

This trend showcases a growing desire among diners for healthier, more sustainable, and diverse dietary options.


Customer Loyalty Programs

Consumer loyalty program participation is a growing trend in the restaurant industry, showcasing a preference for benefits like freebies and discounts.  


To boost appeal, many programs have started incorporating gamification elements, such as the opportunity to "level up" to higher tiers of rewards based on spending, thereby enhancing customer engagement and long-term loyalty.


Stats to Consider

  • 47% of consumers now participate in restaurant loyalty programs, up from 38% in 2021. 

  • Loyalty programs are becoming more prevalent in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) sector.

  • 49% of consumers admit that loyalty programs influence their decision to visit specific restaurants.


The rise in customer loyalty programs suggests a shift in consumer demand for value and rewards from their dining experiences.



Solo Dining 

More and more people are recognizing that enjoying a meal alone is a valid and enjoyable experience, with data showing that in 2024, 5% of people are now dining out solo weekly, with 37% citing the reason as wanting a little ‘me time. ”  

In its 2024 Global Restaurant Trends Report, Technomic saw that more large chains are developing more personal meals to accommodate solo diners. Solo dining is most common in pizza concepts, where guests can opt for a handheld pocket or melt instead of a whole pie and Japanese restaurants that have typically catered to parties of one for years. 

 

Comfort Food

Nostalgia is going to be on more menus as 2024 progresses with comfort foods  in the spotlight. Beloved childhood flavors are at the  top of this trend, with more and more consumers hungry for foods that remind them of their younger days. Items like cereal l milk cocktails, birthday cake-themed lattes, soups, stews, and  throwback desserts like Bananas Foster,  and Boston Cream Pie are making news.

 


By Eileen Strauss

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