As we enter a new year with resolutions for eating better and taking proper care of the customers who visit restaurants, it’s fair to ask if our new needs will be met.  The short answer is yes. The long answer is more complicated, since resolutions tend not to last as long as we like.
Here are five food and restaurant trends we can expect to see throughout 2013.

  1. Menus will include more locally sourced foods and drinks.  The American Culinary Federation said locally sourced food will continue to gain steam in the nation’s restaurants.  The United States Bartenders Association agrees, saying drinks will join artisan food products and local sourcing to create unusual mixes.  “Increasing recognition of mixology has elevated restaurant drink menus to a new level that allows bartenders to showcase their skills in blending textures and flavors similarly to how chefs approach food in the kitchen,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and knowledge for the National Restaurant Association. 
  2. Get ready for tableside payments. The NRA predicts consumers’ desire for more high-tech payment options will influence more dining establishments.  The NRA found that at table-service restaurants, more than half of consumers would use tableside electronic payment options. Also, nearly one-third would use mobile payment options. Restaurants need to catch up to demand – less than one in 10 table-service restaurants offer these options, but 54 percent say they will invest more in customer technology in 2013.
  3.  Menus will be healthier.  More than half (55 percent) of chefs surveyed from the culinary association are making efforts to adjust dishes and recipes to be more healthful, while 37 percent said they cook with nutrition in mind. Look for these trends to increase as Americans are taking nutritional issues more seriously, albeit slowly.
  4. Loyalty programs will continue to increase. With technology taking hold and consumers asking for more, restaurant loyalty programs will continue to rise. Services such as Belly – Chicago has 840 Belly-equipped restaurants – and Perka are growing rapidly and are ideal for independent restaurants and coffee shops to keep customers coming back. Look for more integration with smartphone-enabled tools – they are very good for business.
  5. More sustainability in restaurants, including as a menu theme. This goes hand-in-hand with increasing the use of locally sourced food. But we also see sustainability themes used as décor in some restaurants, and more prominent statements about sustainability initiatives on menus. The 2012 Tork Report includes other areas where sustainability initiatives are on the rise.