21 Ways Restaurants Are Going to Change

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The restaurant business is full of challenges, not the least of which is the necessity for restaurateurs to keep up with the times. Foodservice is an industry whose parameters change constantly, responding to evolving consumer tastes, social pressures (eg., “Fight for $15” and #MeToo), new technology, and more. 

Everyone involved in the restaurant business needs to keep up with the times and be aware of what’s going on not just within their industry but in the world at large — whether they’re KFC or McDonald’s franchisees, proprietors or rural diners or small-town cafés, or custodians of the best restaurants in America.

To be successful, though, restaurateurs — at whatever level — can’t just react; they have to anticipate. It is presumably with this in mind that the National Restaurant Association (the so-called “other NRA”) — which styles itself the world’s largest foodservice trade organization and represents more than 500,000 restaurant businesses around the country — has just released a report titled “Restaurant Industry 2030: Actionable Insights for the Future.”

Prepared by the NRA’s Research and Knowledge Group, in partnership with American Express and Nestlé Professional, the report is based on the premise that between now and 2030, the only constant in the business of feeding customers “will be the speed of change and the hyper-competition the restaurant and foodservice industry will face.”

The report contains numerous projections and predictions. Some come from the NRA’s own accumulation of data. The heart of the document, however, is based on a study involving more than a hundred industry experts, including NRA officials, suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and consultants.

The third section of the study is headed “The Disruptors: Think Ahead.” This is a list of 10 “developments and trends that have the potential to affect lifestyles and businesses,” assembled by a team of futurists from the consulting firm Foresight Alliance. These aren’t exactly predictions, but rather “possible futures.” (These are the biggest fads and trends in food and drink since 2010.)

According to the NRA, of this list of 10 possible trends “perhaps only three or four will happen, or maybe they’ll happen in different ways with effects we didn’t see coming.”

One thing is sure: Restaurants in 2030 will be different in many ways than restaurants today, and these are some things that will or might or possibly could change.