3 Restaurant Trends We’re Hoping to See More of in 2018 (and 2 We’re Ready to 86)


2017 was a huge year for fast casual restaurants. Their rise in popularity doesn’t come as much of a shock to those of us in the industry, but others may wonder: why are fast casual restaurants doing so well? (Hint: mobile ordering, increased convenience, and quality food.) We took a look at what made customers excited, with our restaurant partners and others in the industry, and here’s what we saw:

Healthy and Whole Foods

No shock here. With increased attention to environmentalism and health, especially among millennials, customers are craving food that fuels their bodies. Restaurants are adding more vegetarian, vegetable-based and vegan menu items, and offering healthier preparation methods (steamed vs. fried). We think this trend is primed to continue into 2018, especially as folks switch to more nutrition-dense options after all of the holiday treats.

International Influence

We love being able to get a small taste of being abroad at home. Fast casual concepts like Num Pang, Cava and Caffè Nero are taking flavor to global heights with their food. By creatively incorporating flavors, techniques, and influences from other places, customers can add interest to their everyday meals. Excitement + Accessibility = Awesome. We hope that restaurants that are already following this trend will continue to do so, and we expect new concepts will be hitting the scene that will also follow suit.

Well-Placed Technology

We think about this one a lot. But it’s only becoming more important in 2018. Technology is paramount for adding the convenience and accessibility that customers expect. From omnichannel ordering, to clear menu signage, to a well-designed app, technology is key to taking fast casual restaurants from meh to YES. There’s no slowing the tech train in 2018, and more and more restaurants will need to get on board to stay successful.

All of that being said, there are a few trends that 2018 won’t have the space for:

Instagramability over Operations

Please don’t get us wrong here. We are fully obsessed with Instagram (just check out our feed). But when the aim is to create a product that is camera-ready above all else, operations can suffer. Of course, customers want high-quality and aesthetically pleasing food, but if intricately placing cucumber ribbons is going to hold up lines, it’s better to go without.

Tailoring to Fads

Be yourself, be yourself be yourself. One thing we could let go of in 2018 is restaurants drastically altering their menus to keep up with the Joneses. We are ALL about experimenting, but it should be on-brand and authentic. Anything less is obvious to customers and will be a detriment to your restaurant’s success.

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Jackie Cooke

Jackie Cooke

Jacqueline Cooke is the Digital Content Marketing Manager at LevelUp. She's a firm believer in the power of avocado toast and chocolate chip banana pancakes. When she’s not trying out LevelUp partner restaurants (hello, Dig Inn!) you can find her dreaming up travel plans, trying out a new workout class or listening to her laundry list of podcasts. Read about her latest antics at jacquelinecooke.com

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