Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine asked restaurant industry insiders and experts for their insights on what will impact restaurants in 2020 and the response was overwhelming. They touched on topics such as delivery, ghost (dark) kitchens, automation, plant-based menu items, food waste, sustainability, staffing and retention and more. 
Rick Camac, Dean of Restaurant & Hospitality Management at the Institute of Culinary Education
  1. The biggest trend by far, for now, and going into 2020 is ghost kitchens (AKA delivery only, virtual kitchens, cloud kitchens, pick-up only, etc.).  The economic model makes more sense than traditional brick and mortar so many food businesses are moving in this direction.  Occupancy cost may be 60-70 percent less than a traditional restaurant and payroll could be 33-50% less.  Even cost of sales may go down as the ghost kitchen typically has a smaller, more manageable menu. 
  2.  Food Halls – the numbers for current and future growth are substantial.  Big and high-end players are getting (and are in) the game.  Substantial advantages in marketing, reduced labor costs, shared management costs, lower occupancy cost can be had in this model.
  3. Low priced / value perceived / big ticket items brought down to a fixed low price.  See Sugarfish (inexpensive sushi / omakase) and Burger Lobster as leaders in this sector but many Asian concepts are going in that direction as well.  Also, high end chefs (Mark Ladner – Del Posto) doing high-end pasta for under $10.
  4. A chicken sandwich and the impact it has had on how to market a product – see Popeye’s vs.  Chick-fil-A.

Ghost Kitchens

The concept of using an existing restaurant’s kitchen to sell the food from another restaurant or brand has a few names, ghost kitchen, cloud kitchen, virtual kitchen…just to name a few. The utilization of ghost kitchens means more money and opportunity for restaurant operators, without large price or labor hikes. In FAT Brands restaurants in particular, our franchisees who have ghost kitchens see an additional 10-20 percent  in sales each week. The increased kitchen space, brand awareness and sales are a no-brainer for brands looking to scale.

Plant-based Menu Items

FAT Brands, Andy Wiederhorn – The proliferation of plant-based proteins in restaurants can’t be ignored. 2019 brought a rapid increase of dairy-free and vegan options for consumers in restaurants including ice cream, cheese, chicken, beef and continued innovations for fish, lamb and milk. These options cater to both vegetarians/vegans and the flexitarian, someone who eats meat but wants plant-based options as well. As menu innovation continues to drive foot traffic into restaurants and increased sales, plant-based food options will continue to be at the forefront of restaurant trends in 2020.

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