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Mintel, the experts in what consumers want and why, has today (February 3, 2021) announced four key trends for the US foodservice industry, including analysis, insights, and recommendations centered around consumer behavior over the next 12 months.

  • The Great Divide: The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the differences between the haves and have nots, both within the restaurant industry and among consumers.
  • Play With Your Food: In times of anxiety and crisis, consumers turn to food for security and comfort.
  • Restaurants Redefined: Restaurants will have to fill a greater role at home and grow more accessible in the recession as COVID-19 concerns remain present and the retail foodservice threat grows.
  • Trust or Bust: Investments in safety protocols, employee welfare, and the community will help brands gain trust and stay ahead of the curve in maintaining loyalty.

Looking ahead, Amanda Topper, Associate Director of Foodservice Research at Mintel, discusses how these four trends are set to influence the foodservice industry in the months and years to come.

The Great Divide

“In the months ahead, consumers will continue to tighten restaurant spending, including trading down to more affordable limited-service restaurants (LSRs.) Conversely, those with more disposable income will splurge on dining. Regardless, diners will prioritize restaurants they’re already familiar with that offer menu flexibility (eg tiered pricing options). Limited-time offers (LTOs) and everyday deals can help encourage visitation.

“Long-term, economic recovery will have consumers feeling more comfortable with discretionary spending, including dining out. Off-premise investments and creative revenue sources restaurants turned to during the pandemic can be long lasting solutions for meeting consumers’ dining needs in the future.”

Play With Your Food

“In uncertain times, diners cling to the foods they know and love to bring them a sense of comfort. Over the next 12 months, brands should focus on nostalgia and adventure, offering diners a welcome break from life’s stressors. This could take the form of hyper-local or regional flavor innovation or foods that turn into a family activity (eg tie-dye donut decorating kits).

“Indulgent categories like desserts, snacks, and cocktails are prime for innovation in the next two years, whether that’s total reinvention or a focus on revamping the classics.”

Restaurants Redefined

“In 2021, expect to see restaurants help foster social connections virtually, refocus for the at-home celebration and offer hyper-limited-time offers and tech-driven popups to remain top of mind. Food/catering trucks, mobile kitchens, cooking/cocktail classes, and music playlists all offer brands the opportunity to meet consumers where they are – at home.

“Over the next two years, restaurants will adapt to a more casual, speed- and value-focused society – think speedier fast-casual concepts and more casual, budget-friendly fine dining. In order to succeed, operators must make their food and/or service model more accessible to price-sensitive consumers who are still largely at home.”

Trust or Bust

“Pandemic-related safety concerns are not disappearing anytime soon. Investment in long-term safety features needs to begin as soon as possible. The approach to safety and employee rights must be honest and transparent over the next 12 months. Support of minorities, communities, employees, and consumers will only be effective alongside a straightforward game plan.

“2020 highlighted the lack of diversity and inclusion for many leading restaurants. Looking ahead, a proactive approach to establishing employment treatment policies will be necessary and operators won’t want to be the last ones standing without one.”

Interviews with the Mintel Reports US Foodservice Analyst team are available on request from the Mintel Press Office. Mintel’s 2021 US Foodservice Trends are available for free download here.