Five years, in the ever-so-quickly-advancing restaurant industry, can bring about serious change. Let me remind you all that half a decade ago, Five Guys was mostly a regional player and Chipotle was just starting to make headlines with its promise of sustainable food.
Well, a lot has changed since then. Now Five Guys is a national force in the better-burger category and Chipotle has influenced the locally grown food movement well beyond its own category.
The point is, restaurants in their infancy today could be the leaders of tomorrow, propelled by a new kind of customer—one that is dependent on social media, a survivor of the recession, and interested in global flavors.
So what’s in store for the industry in the next half-decade? According to QSR Magazine, here are five segments with major potential:
- The Eco-Burger—Meat-loving Americans beloved burger will go through a little transformation according to Liz Aviles, vice president of market intelligence for Upshot. Imagine an evolution from the “better burger” to the “cleaner burger.” This will not only be a burger better for your body but more eco-friendly and better for the community. Aviles went on to say that chains like Chicago-based Epic Burger will claim the moral high ground in the next five years with fewer preservatives and a strong sustainability message.
- Asian Meets Fast Casual—Although there are quite a few upscale Asian restaurants, there is still a market for the fast casual sector. Eric Giandelone, director of foodservice research for Mintel, compares the situation to that of Chipotle a few years ago when there was a clear divide between higher end and lower end Mexican dining options. “Chipotle kind of changed that by offering that in-between. The same is kind of true with Asian food right now,” says Giandelone. It appears that Chipotle founder Steve Ells is taking what he’s learned about Mexican food and applying it to the Asian food market with his recent launch of the fast casual ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. Similar concepts including Chutney Joe’s Indian Diner in Chicago and Merzi in Washington, D.C. have plans to expand to other markets.
- Fresh Juice—Aviles says Starbucks’ latest offering, the Evolution Fresh juice bar, is a taste of what we will be seeing in 2017. “Starbucks’ Evolution Fresh is a harbinger of more concepts to come,” Aviles says. “It’s a juice and food experience. I think that’s the key.” At Starbucks, the price point is high and the company is branding the experience as “super-premium,” but customers are willing to spend more if they feel that they’re doing something good for themselves as Aviles explained.
- Build-Your-Owns—Robotics, touch-screen ordering, and customized orders will become an increasingly conventional part of the quick-serve experience. Jeremy Umland, founder and CEO of Ozumo Concepts International launched the u-sushi concept which combines customization and technology. Modern-looking machines deliver a fresh sheet of rice as customers watch the process of their sushi being made. As restaurants continue to integrate high tech, more and more customers are going to be placing their own electronic orders and will be able to watch their food be made by robots.
- International Invasion—The U.S. is becoming more open to new concepts and tastes. John Gordon, president and CEO of the Pacific Management Consulting Group, and Aviles point to the changing tastes of a younger generation. Restaurants based abroad such as South African chicken restaurant Nando’s and Guatemala’s Pollo Campero, each have several U.S. locations. “In the United States, the population has become much more diverse,” Gordon says. “We are not a typical extended suburban nation anymore.”
Keep your eye on these five over the next five.
Photo credit: Mr. T in DC