Here are our 2012 predictions for the restaurant industry:
· Burger wars will gain momentum. Everything beef and poultry that’s ground into patty-shapes will be offered in ways never before imagined. You’ll see pizza burgers, miniature burgers, monster-sized burgers, gourmet burgers with buns and toppings that are crunchy, spiked, spicy, salty, sweet, and savory.
· More side dishes. Spicy sweet potato fries to hearty mac and cheese, hummus dips instead of catsup. Comfort foods dished out as sides will attract curious appetites.
· More Vegan. Forget the beef – from cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and tomato chips. If it’s a vegetable, you’ll eat it (even if you think a tomato is a fruit).
· Restaurants will market their signature dishes and specialties on more grocery store shelves, from breads to honey, sauces/dressings to signature brews and sweets.
· The 2012 operating environment for the restaurant industry will continue to improve albeit modestly, with tempered confidence and modest gains in overall employment driving up household incomes and disposable incomes and stay-at-home behavior over the past few years ripe for a hunger for renewed passion out-of-home meals.
· Wholesale food price inflation could put a crimp on plans for value-priced menu strategies.
· Quick-serve Soul Foods featuring flavor combos from Louisiana and around the southern U.S. will catch the interest of curious consumers.
· New formats and brands from upscale restaurant operators as they try to find new appetites and reinvigorate corporate sales to pre-recession levels.
· Growing competition from convenience stores for dinner dollars.
· More upscale grab-and-go salads, ready-to-eat meals, sandwiches, etc. inside convenience stores and supermarkets.
· Food truck craze will subside as more restaurant operators and chefs will over-saturate the demand food trucks.
· Fewer “mom and pop” restaurants. Entrepreneurial couples are usually self-financed. Unfortunately the economy has devastated home equity and stock portfolios, making self-built restaurants with less than 30 seats a tough road. Still, restaurants designed by friends or family, as the owners’ hands select every ingredient and every aspect of their restaurant will still work hard to find their place.