Consumers’ lifestyles across the world are becoming busier and their needs are more demanding.

From functional menu items to eco-friendly packaging, Technomic, Chicago, outlines a broader view of foodservice trends with regards to restaurant menus, service strategies and best practices in 2019.

Plants for the masses

The plant-based menu philosophy has solidified as a bona fide trend on the global stage, moving rapidly from niche to mainstream in just a few short years. While this trend is playing out in different ways from region to region and country to country, one of the overarching themes that will develop further in 2019 is the democratization of plant-led and plant-only diets. This means less talk of health and ethics and more focus on everyday indulgences such as burgers and pizzas that happen to be free of meat. The industry will also continue to see an outsized influence from veganism, the rise of halal-certified meat alternatives, more interest in next-generation dairy substitutes such as oatmilk, new emphasis on locally branded and sourced meat analogs and further use of vegetables in place of carbohydrates.

Function forward

Functionality is now a key menu draw across the world, and operators are looking to boost the usefulness of their food and drink offerings to cater to today’s changing lifestyles. Some of the myriad needs and demands functional food and drink now aim to address range from nutrition, mood improvement and convenience to beauty enhancement, Instagrammability and illness prevention. Expect more chains to introduce function-forward menu options in innovative and unexpected ways over the coming year, enhancing everything from snacks to pizzas.

Empowered packaging

Sustainability and delivery are altering the packaging landscape. If there was a villain in the global restaurant industry of 2018, it was the single-use plastic straw. Seemingly overnight, chains from the United States, Canada and Colombia to the U.K., Australia and Hong Kong took significant steps to reduce the amount of plastic straws served in their stores. But, that’s just the start of what appears to be a larger shift away from the use of plastics that will continue into 2019 and beyond, creating new demand for innovative packaging, utensils and plateware solutions to fill the void. Couple this emerging need with the meteoric rise of delivery across the world—and the various challenges this service has created for operators—and it’s an important time for food and drink packaging in the restaurant industry. Eco-friendliness will remain a key part of this trend, but the industry can also expect to see packaging that is multi-use, tamper-proof, edible, smart and able to withstand the increasingly hurried journey from kitchen to doorstep.

New stars emerge

While macro trends tend to get the lion’s share of attention at the global level, many smaller, more regional trends are poised to make an international impact moving into 2019. Expect to see operators continue to experiment with butterfly pea flower and cheese foam toppers to re-contextualize traditional teas, while halloumi, cauliflower and hummus will capture more space on menus across restaurant segments. Among ethnic cuisines, Mexican food is positioned to see widespread growth, while the specialties from maritime Southeast Asia are also set to make a mark. 2019 is also likely to be the breakout year for the delivery-only kitchen format in all its various incarnations.