As the restaurant industry evolves, investors are on the constant lookout for the next trend that promises significant returns over the coming decades. Analyzing Restaurant Business Online, including the recently published Future 50 ranking, it's evident where the winds of change are headed. Here, we spotlight the five most influential trends shaping the restaurant chains of today and, potentially, the future.
1. The Rise of Eatertainment
Eatertainment chains have become the talk of the town. The increasing popularity of pickleball has given birth to numerous concepts focusing on this sport. Notably, Chicken ‘N Pickle witnessed a 51% growth last year. However, the broader scope of eatertainment is vast, with brands like Pinstripes, a bowling eatertainment concept, set to go public soon.
2. Drive-Thru is Brewing
When examining the Future 50, it's evident that six out of 50 chains are dedicated to coffee, predominantly served through drive-thru windows. Leading this pack is the publicly traded Dutch Bros, closely followed by Scooters. Chains like Caribou Coffee and Biggby Coffee, previously without drive-thrus, are now jumping on this trend. And then there’s Swig, a “dirty soda” chain, emphasizing the growing inclination of consumers opting for drive-thru beverages.
3. Daylight Dining
Breakfast-and-lunch chains have garnered quite the spotlight. Chains like First Watch lead this trend, emphasizing being operational during peak hours and closing post-lunch. This efficiency-centric approach is being embraced by numerous chains, including popular names like Breakfast Republic and Huckleberry’s.
4. The Doughnut Renaissance
Doughnuts, especially those offering unique experiences and innovative flavors, are silently creating a buzz. Duck Donuts has been consistently featured on the Future 50 list. However, the sensation that's catching everyone’s attention is Mochinut, which offers mochi donuts—a delightful fusion of traditional doughnuts with Japanese mochi. Other contenders in this category include Shipley Do-Nuts from Texas, boasting over 300 locations.
Shipley's offering | Photo courtesy of Shipley Do-Nuts
5. The Taco Takeover
While there were various contenders for the fifth spot, the resurgence of tacos is undeniable. From investors of Blaze Pizza and Dog Haus venturing into the taco realm, to the rapid expansion of chains like Tacombi, Tacos 4 Life, Velvet Taco, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, and Torchy’s Tacos, the taco trend is hard to miss. Even celebrities like Danny Trejo have delved into this space with their taco concepts.
In conclusion, as the restaurant industry pivots and adjusts to the ever-changing consumer preferences, these trends offer a glimpse into the potential future of dining. Whether you're an investor, restaurateur, or a food lover, keeping an eye on these trends might offer fruitful insights and delicious experiences.