Where Hospitality is Headed: Trends for 2017

From breakfast sandwiches and caviar to inspired coffee and rosé, 2017 is poised to offer a bevy of interesting food, beverage, and concept trends in the world of hospitality. In a webinar held last week, Andrew Freeman, president of restaurant and hospitality consulting firm AF&Co, presented the company’s forecasted trends for the new year, as well as a little advice for making it all work.

With frequent closures, an increasingly competitive landscape, and rising costs, AF&Co sees 2017 as a year in which restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality establishments will have to change things up as they go. “In general, our advice is be prepared,” Freeman said.

As far as food trends, AF&Co foresees ethnic foods continuing to heat up the landscape. “This is by far something we have seen across the board and we’re going to see this next year even more,” Freeman explained. Modern, elevated takes on Indian, Korean, African, and Middle Eastern food are expected, as well as lesser-known Asian cuisines such as Filipino, Taiwanese, Laotian, Malaysian, and Indonesian.

Specific trends include creative, upscale breakfast sandwiches; customizable bowls for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; cannabis-infused cocktails, wines, and edibles; whole-plant butchery; caviar; modern takes on tartare; interesting ice cream; and inventive dairy-free alternatives. New American cuisine that incorporates flavors and elements of other cultures is also expected to take center stage.

In beverages, anticipated trends include natural wines that are minimally processed and free from additives, sour beers, sake, vinegary switchels, and year-round rosé. Canned wines that are recyclable and offer a sustainable footprint are also expected to stand out, as well as wine flights and boutique coffee drinks such as draft lattes, nitro coffee, almond milk lattes, coffee lemonade, coffee cocktails, and more.

A concept trend that continues to heat up is letting customers create their own dining experience via uniquely curated restaurants that offer a drink at the bar, a few dishes to share at the table, or even an extravagant dinner under one roof. “This whole idea of crafting your own experience is really where the world is at,” Freeman explained.

Additional concept trends include vibe dining that puts an emphasis on environmental design, flexible spaces that give restaurants the opportunity to earn extra income by using their space for activities other than dining, elevated fast casual fare, and food halls.

On the business side, trends to watch include the evolution of no-tipping policies, getting creative when it comes to keeping employees happy and healthy, and finding new labor cost-saving solutions. Also on the horizon is the rise of restaurants that deliver. While there are anticipated challenges with vehicles, quality control, and creating a menu that lends itself to delivery, more restaurants are seeing delivery as a potential revenue stream and marketing tool to keep up the buzz.

Finally, hotels are expected to benefit from open kitchens that bring diners into the cooking experience, new and creative ways of serving alcohol, and lobby retail kiosks that are easier to stock and offer a wider variety of options than the standard minibar.

Related: Americans Increase Consumption of Ethnic Foods; Hospitality Makes People Happy: Easy Ways to Impact Your Customer Service Impact