Ahead of the Curve:  Restaurant Industry Trends to Watch for in 2020


Ahead of the Curve: Franchise Restaurant Industry Trends to Watch for in 2020

With a new decade just around the corner, what’s the next big thing we should be expecting in food? What are consumers looking for – or demanding – when it comes to choosing their favorite date night venue, lunch time go-to, or girls night ground zero?

As the end of 2019 quickly approaches, the era of take-out menus, avocado toast, and kale is quietly stepping aside and making way for an exciting new wave of foodservice trends.

With the booming emergence of alternative foodservice options, it’s safe to say that 2019 was a challenging year for the franchise restaurant industry.

But not to worry. There is a whole lot to look forward to in 2020.

In fact, industry research indicates that the coming year for restaurants and multi-unit franchises won’t be a quiet one.

So what’s in store for the restaurant industry in 2020?

The Ethnic Food Appeal

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Move over meat and potatoes—Canadians are expanding their palettes.

With the borders of Canada’s extensive melting pot (pardon the pun!) becoming increasingly blurred, the sheer volume and scope and of ethnic food we are exposed to continues to grow at an unstoppable rate.

So of course it’s not surprising that as our food options evolve, as do our tastes.

increasing love of ethnic flavours continues to grow in Canada, and ethnic food demand is undeniably on the rise. A Mintel survey of 2,000 Canadians found that 57% of respondents are more open to trying to ethnic foods now than they were a few years ago.

This is due in part to changing demographics, increased exposure to different cultures, and an increased consumer demand for more exciting, flavourful dining experiences.

Canadians just can’t seem to get enough ethnic food these days, and the landscape of our restaurant industry is changing because of it.  Japanese, Indian, and Thai restaurants are becoming mainstream hotspots for date-night destinations. And it doesn’t end there. Sushi, curries, and pad thai are making their way onto North American menus, and these dishes are becoming some of the restaurants’ best sellers.

The Demand for Plant-Forward Food

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As the new year approaches, I think it’s safe to say that plants are here to stay.

In fact, Forbes has reported plant-based eating as the single most influential trend driving the food and beverage industry in 2020..

The increasing popularity of plant-based eating by consumers of all dietary preferences has driven a major demand of readily available—and delicious—plant-based products.

How is the restaurant industry responding to this unstoppable pandemic of meat-free consumers? On-trend establishments (at least the smart ones) are incorporating cauliflower-based crusts and veggie noodles onto their menus.

And lets not forget the incredible popularity of “Beyond Meat” and “Impossible Burgers”, which seem to be taking the fast food industry by storm.

These plant-based alternatives to their less-than-healthy counterparts have quickly become permanent and hugely popular menu items, mainly due to their surprisingly half-decent taste.

One thing is definitely a safe bet for restaurant owners in 2020 – there has never been a better time to think plant-based.

The Online Ordering Takeover

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Chances are you’ve ordered food online at least once this month, some of us a whole lot more. And trust me, this unstoppable online ordering train isn’t slowing down anytime soon, either.

The concept of food delivery sure isn’t new. It began with old school delivery menus and progressed to online ordering sites that only specific restaurants would offer. Fast forward to today, and the process of ordering food has become easier than, well, using the microwave.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that online food delivery is forecast to beef up to a massive $200 billion by 2025.

As online ordering becomes more and more convenient for consumers, restaurants will see major shifts in their business models: less dine-in traffic means less in-house service staff, and a growing demand for extra hands in the kitchen.

Sparing the added efforts of picking out clothes and navigating your way there, dine-out orders will continue to pour in at record numbers as customers opt to eat hand delivered meals served right at their doorsteps.

But all of this doesn’t necessarily mean consumer demand in the restaurants industry is changing, either. Simply put, it means that “preferred” seating reservations have shifted from the V.I.P. chef’s table to the Saturday night comfort of a living room couch.

UPDATE: Due to current circumstances, online ordering is more prevalent than ever. As a result, restaurant marketing has become vital for restaurants trying to stand out. Click Here to learn more about restaurant marketing during the pandemic.

The Kid’s Menu Evolution

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When adults go to a restaurant they might order things like roasted rack of lamb or seafood risotto, right?  But if young children are in tow, their options have always been limited to chicken fingers, pizza, or mac and cheese (sigh….). Well not anymore.

While this typical kids menu probably delights the picky eaters out there, parents who want more for their kids and their money are less than delighted.

And kids who actually like to eat adventurously are bored out of their minds.

Luckily many restaurant owners are parents themselves and are finally taking notice.

You will see the standard children’s menu options being revamped with better ingredients, and put alongside more grown-up options.

Dishes made with real, gourmet cheeses, homemade sauces, and fresh ingredients will be seen more often. It will be more common to find kids’ menus that feature whole-grain superfoods like quinoa, as well as global cuisine.

The Unique Dining Experience

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These days, customers are expecting more than just a good menu and appealing decor when they head out to eat. They are becoming increasingly sophisticated and  are demanding more from their dining experiences.

The restaurant industry is already brimming with delicious menus and fantastic dining ideas. So how can existing and start-up restaurants set themselves apart from the competition?

In 2020, expect more restaurants to gravitate towards offering unique experiences for their guests, because people – especially Millennials – are craving new experiences.

So what exactly is “unique dining”?

A unique dining experience goes beyond food. It brings a level of excitement and adventure to the customer that connects the meal with a thoroughly entertaining experience.

From feasting in the dark ar O.Noir, to interactive murder mystery dining at Mysteriously Yours (both located downtown Toronto), only creativity and imagination limits the possibilities this emerging trend has to offer.


Finances Online (2019). 10 Restaurant Trends for 2020: Top Forecasts and What Lies Beyond. Retrieved from https://financesonline.com/restaurant-                trends/

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