How to hop on food trends before they happen
In today’s fast moving digital media landscape, getting involved with food trends can be a great way to get your hospitality business media coverage and social reach.
By the time you’re reading about a trend in the mainstream media, it’s already too late to get involved and see any major success.
The trick is to get your product in front of the media before the trend starts to break and that can be difficult, unless you know what you’re doing.
What is a food trend?
The term “food trend” can refer to anything from gone-in-a-flash fads with wacky hashtags, to deeper movements that reflect a progression in people’s long-term interests and lifestyle choices.
A scroll through social media will usually turn up a good cross-section of these two concepts.
You’ll find the garish and crazy #foodporn dishes in the midst of a viral boom, usually vanishing as quickly as they arrived and you’ll find trends that are progressive in nature, those which originate in more profound movements within an industry or culture.
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Where to find them?
There are many places to look for a trend that hasn’t gone mainstream yet.
Using Google as a starting point, a few well-formed searches allow you to find content from niche food and lifestyle blogs to leading chefs and restaurant critics.
Searching for specific phrases such as, ‘top food trends of 2018 USA’ will give you reliable articles such as this one from Forbes which discusses progressive food trends in the industry, or this one from Insider, which is more focussed on trend-driven dishes.
To get ahead of the game, search ‘predicted food trends 2019’ and look for patterns in the expert predictions.
In a world of globally connected digital media, trends often originate locally before spreading out abroad.
Most trends we see in Australia started in global cities like New York, LA, Hong Kong or London – gaining popularity in Australia afterwards.
For example, in 2015 hospitality PR agency The Atticism* spotted the Hawaiian dish ‘Poke’ enjoying a spike in popularity in LA, and correctly predicted that dish would attract Aussie attention before long.
“Easy Lane was opening their venue in a remote area of Western Sydney and were looking for national coverage to boost visitors to the area. The poke dish was a good fit for their menu and vibe,” said The Atticism’s Ben Janeczko.
“As one of the first venues to offer the dish, they were a natural go-to when the media picked up on the trend, gaining coverage in everything from national newspaper sites like news.com.au, to in flight magazines.”
With a lag time of between six months to a year for trends to make the leap from the US or Asia, looking overseas can often be a great place to find things that may soon be big over here.
Follow the culture
Not all menu items are influenced by ‘dish-specific’ factors.
Health and environmentally-focussed trends are a good example of this, such as the slow food movement and zero-waste cooking.
It’s a great idea to follow industry leaders on social media to find out what they’re up to.
For example, what are the cutting-edge chefs doing at their restaurants? What sold out at the local food or music festival last weekend? What cuisines seem to be gaining popularity?
Keeping abreast of what’s going on at the cutting edge of hospitality is a great way to keep yourself in touch with the industry undercurrents.
Make sure the trend fits
When you find something that looks like it could trend, but is not yet on the general public’s radar, it is essential to determine if the concept will work in your local area.
As we are a nation that is known for clean living and health lifestyle choices, Australia will usually pick up most health-food trends – but we’ll also indulge in not-so-healthy trends.
A simple rule of thumb is to look at the photographic potential of a dish. If a dish lends itself to a fun, stylish or super indulgent presentation, it could be a winner.
But a dish also needs to taste good, and sound appealing.
For example, edible insects are regularly touted as “the next big thing” but it seems people may just be too squeamish for us to see crickets and roaches on the average menu any time soon.
Finally make sure that the trend fits with your core values.
Test your ideas with customers on a specials menu before adding them to the permanent menu or going out to media.
Picking a trend early is not always easy – after all, you’re attempting to predict the future, but get in early and you could lift your business from a drop in the ocean to being carried along on by a strong digital current.
* Renae Smith is the founder and director of The Atticism