Why Trendy Food Fails: 3 Reasons Restaurant Owners Should Know
In the restaurant industry, trendy food fads constantly emerge. It’s important for business owners to educate themselves on what works and, most importantly, what doesn’t.
As a restaurant owner, you already know the competition is fierce in the food and beverage industry. Implementing trendy food choices for your establishment might seem like the perfect way to leverage your business. But before giving the green light, educate yourself on the risks and rewards of jumping on the bandwagon. The reality is, many trendy food fads end up doing more harm than good for your business and reputation. Here are the three biggest reasons trendy food fails and why it’s crucial to stay true to your style.
Popular trendy food fads are constantly coming and going. From avocado toast to molecular gastronomy, kale, or CBD-infused kombucha, it seems like every day there’s a new trend cropping up amongst diners. But is following the latest trendy food craze good for your business?
According to the National Restaurant Association, in 2018 the restaurant industry accounted for $825 billion in sales. For a local pizza place (or really any type of restaurant at all), that’s a lot of dough. With so many different food establishments competing for customer business and satisfaction, restauranteurs know the importance of attracting new patrons.
While daring to take risks is important in the restaurant biz, it’s equally important to weigh out the benefits. The customer dining experience should never be sacrificed simply to bend to the latest trendy food craze. Mixing your menu up with trendy food may seem appealing, but quality is always paramount. Here are three reasons why trendy food fails, and classic quality wins out every time.
3 Reasons Why Trendy Food Fails Your Customers
1. Trends Can Create an Uninviting Dining Environment
One of the biggest reasons why it’s bad to overload your menu with the latest trendy food is because it can take away from the appeal of your dining environment. While there are plenty of experimental foodies out there who want to sample and ‘Stagram the latest dish, too many wild offerings can leave your customers feeling out of place.
When patrons walk into your establishment, they want to feel welcome. They also want to know the type of dining experience they should expect. Unrecognizable dishes, strange terms, and unfamiliar ingredients will likely turn them away and make them feel excluded. In this case, trendy food restricts your patrons from relaxing and enjoying their meals. If your patrons have to ask what they’re ordering, chances are high most will opt for the dish they can pronounce.
Trendy food also impacts the restaurant environment by making it more difficult to connect with servers and your overall space. Exotic meals with specific rules on how they should be consumed or confusing ingredients customers have never seen before will take up server’s time as they help patrons navigate the menu. It also puts your server in an awkward position if your guest doesn’t like the nori-flavored ice cream they recommended.
Keep in mind, trendy food may feel more elevated, exciting, and modern but there’s something to be said for sticking to your roots. If the traditional dishes have kept your customers satisfied in the past, then why fix what’s not broken? Picture this, if you’re a local Italian establishment, spaghetti and meatballs is a must on the menu, no doubt. Customers craving an authentic meal are not visiting you for spaghetti powdered essence served with liquid nitrogen meatballs. In this case, just good old fashioned food will do the trick.
Customers seek restaurants willing to accommodate special needs and offering flexibility. If your establishment strictly embraces ONLY trendy food, there may not be much wiggle room. This will not only turn customers away, once again causing them to feel unsatisfied, but will also create an awkward interaction between wait staff and patrons when special requests get denied.
According to Lightspeed, “restaurants that don’t allow for substitutions will only suffer as customers grow increasingly used to being able to fashion their own meals and make desired changes.” Hungry customers will appreciate your dedication to quality food and an inviting, accommodating dining experience. Delicious comfort food beats trendy food any day.
2. Following Food Trends Causes Skewed Expectations
When trendy food items fully consume your restaurant’s menu, customers will set high expectations for your establishment. Skewed and unclear expectations in the eyes of your patrons only set your restaurant up for failure. In this case, in addition to a confusing dining environment, trendy food fails because patrons can’t rely on consistency.
Trying something new patrons have never seen before means you either knock their socks off or disappoint them greatly. Innovation is one thing but a Thai-Italian-American fusion establishment (although highly one-of-a-kind) that fails to deliver on tastes will likely not get return business. Remember, it’s important to reign in your trendy food ideas and know your limits.
Another issue with trendy food is customers may set very high expectations for your super cool, modern take on a Mexican Taqueria and then find themselves disappointed when your trendy food fails to fulfill their expectations. As a restaurant owner, customer satisfaction is ALWAYS the number one priority and trendy food fails will only hold your establishment back from truly thriving and getting those positive restaurant reviews you so desperately need to leverage your business amongst the competition.
Food, decoration, and service greatly impact the way customers view you and experience your establishment. Any time you adjust one area of your restaurant, all other elements should remain consistent. Adding a few new dishes? Great! But keep the décor and the dining process the same. Adding new food trends and exotic items to your menu as “specials” is a great way to test them out and see if they’re a good fit.
The way in which you meet customer expectations will either make or break you. According to New Voice Media, after only ONE negative dining experience or bad impression, an astonishing 51% of patrons will likely never return again. You’ve got one shot to please your customer; don’t let trendy food get in the way. Give your customers what they want and expect.
3. Following Trends Confuse Your Restaurant Theme
As a food establishment, the biggest element that sets you apart from other restaurants is your unique theme. You offer a restaurant culture which can’t be found anywhere else. By embracing your one-of-a-kind restaurant theme, you set yourself apart and draw customers to return.
Often, trendy food offerings fail to support and align with your restaurant’s theme. These dishes can even negatively influence your overall culture. Patrons who don’t get a clear vibe from your menu right away will find themselves displeased and confused with what you’re trying to do. Are you a ramen joint or a sushi joint? Do you serve sandwiches or racks of ribs?
This isn’t to say that you can’t branch out. A trendy take on the familiar or an offering that aligns with your current menu makes sense. Cauliflower crust pizza? For a pizza joint keeping up with keto trend, it makes perfect sense on your menu (just be sure you keep your delicious deep dish favorite on there too).
The reality is, as badly as you may want to change things up to attract younger generations into your establishment, any trendy food trick that doesn’t properly align with what your restaurant’s theme must go. For example, family-style establishments with a long, well-known history should steer clear of incorporating too many trendy food elements. The local ‘60s breakfast diner should probably hold off on trying out coffee margaritas on their customers and southern barbecue joints can likely sit the whole celery juice fad out.
Remember, everything from your restaurant décor to ambiance and menu must be cohesive with your overall theme. Before jumping on any type of trendy food bandwagon, consider the following elements and ask yourself these questions:
- Will these trendy food ideas elevate my food options?
- How will these modern takes on serving food impact my waitstaff, chefs, and production time?
- Are customers actually requesting more trendy food options?
- How will this affect my costing?
- How do these trendy food meals fit in with my restaurant’s theme or overall message?
- Do I really need to change the menu or will I confuse my loyal customers?
- Is trendy food the best way for me to increase profits and grow my business?
Whether you’re just starting out as a restaurant entrepreneur or you’re a restaurant owner that’s been in the industry for a while now, you know how competitive the food industry is and how much work it takes to keep a quality establishment up and running.
Trendy food and modern takes on familiar dishes may seem like a popular route in the moment. But the reality is, many of these innovations aren’t worth the negative impact your restaurant’s day-to-day operations or customer experience. Trendy food can be a great thing but it’s important to stay true to and authentic to your restaurant’s identity. Know your limits and know what’s best for your business.
Put your patrons first before making any huge changes and test the waters with a few special dishes before completely revamping your menu. Trendy food fads are all over the place, but often fail restaurants in many ways. Educate yourself on the best options for your establishment to maintain your reputation as a leader and competitor in the food and beverage industry!