Food Trends 2017: Australians Want Healthy, Sustainable Fare

open for business: trendy hospitality restaurant

They say that change is inevitable but progress is optional, and when it comes to food trends in 2017, it’s hard to disagree. But the inevitable change can be hard to stomach, especially when you’re not sure which changes to implement.

Enter Impos’ landmark hospitality survey of over 600 key players in the industry: chefs, owners, managers, waiters & more. Like a 10-course banquet meal, our survey findings were bountiful, full of rich, aromatic discoveries like:

  • 73% of hospitality businesses said competition had increased in the past year.
  • 83% of hospitality businesses predicted revenue to increase in 2017.
  • 72% of hospitality owners said their primary investment focus was people, followed by marketing & décor.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, our survey went beyond industry optimism and concerns to uncover the following food trends.

Food Trend #1: Health-Conscious Eating Culture

Which food trends do you expect to be hot in the next 12 months (Top 3 of 14 options)
Healthy food menus 58%
Vegan/vegetarian 37.5%
Organic food menus 37.5%

More than half of respondents (58%) said health-conscious offerings would be the top food trend this year, followed by a focus on vegan and vegetarian and organic offerings.

So, while the proliferation of Korean fried chicken, Sriracha and fancily-named gelato might make it seem like they’re dominating the hospitality market, the truth is that punters are increasingly seeking healthy food options.

Impos CEO & hospitality veteran Sean O’Meara explains that this Australian hospitality phenomenon can be put down to many extraneous factors, such as:

  • the gentrification of Aussie neighbourhoods
  • the impact of social media
  • a sustained interest in reality cooking shows
  • popularity of health and wellness industry influencers

Whatever the reason, it’s no surprise to Sean that all three of the top food trends feature healthy food in some respect. The question is: how can restaurants react to this finding?

Luckily, these popular food trends are easy enough to implement. Simply create more menu options that cater to these demographics. You can even combine two or even all three for optimal results.

For your existing dishes, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Keep the popular items but just aim to make them a bit healthier.

If you’re struggling to think of vegetarian ideas, look at vegetarian comfort foods and plant-heavy restaurant menus. A few examples would be Portobello mushroom steaks, avocado chips, zucchini fritters, artichoke pesto or a Brussel sprout crumble.

The main takeaway is that diners are more health-conscious and food aware, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to sacrifice taste. They still get excited with different flavour combinations and experimentation. And so should you.

“Hospitality venues will benefit if they keep on top of health and wellness trends, and look for opportunities to tap into new and emerging food and drink crazes,” Sean says.

healthy vegetarian food top food trend 2017

Food Trend #2: Sustainable Food Sourcing

Which dining concepts do you expect will be hot in the next 12 months? (Top 3 of 6 options)
Locally-sourced produce, venues that ‘grow-their-own produce’ 64%
Sharing menus – for all meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) 63%
Venues specialising in a single food 57%

Meanwhile, 64% said sustainability, such as sourcing local produce and a ‘grow your own’ approach, was on the rise. Sharing menus (63%) was a close second, while niche, specialist venues came in third with 57%.

It’s clear that more Australians are interested in where their food is sourced, what they’re putting into their bodies, and the overall impact their food and drink consumption is having on the environment.

Like our first food trend, restaurateurs who embrace the environment will reap the benefits. Look at the resurgence of the ‘head-to-tail’ philosophy, which aims to minimise food waste by using every possible cut of meat, or the emphasis put on locally sourced ingredients adopted by popular establishments, which minimises environmentally-damaging transportation.

The second most popular dining concept was tapas-style sharing menus, where people eat smaller plates of food but get to vary their choices by ordering more plates. Part of its popularity stems from the communal, collectivist nature of sharing plates. Another joy of a tapas-style menu stems from the fact that the decision-making process is diluted, that ‘all your eggs are not in one basket’. No food FOMO with a sharing menu!

Any restaurant owner should consider this approach, especially as it can be a very profitable change. Not only can tapas-style plates achieve a higher profit margin, venues can increase the quality of their produce while reducing overall costs by being more targeted in their inventory requirements.

And finally, there’s a trend towards venues specialising in one particular food. Whether this image is created through effective marketing or a menu consolidation, it’s a risky but potentially profitable tactic to work at becoming ‘the best’ at something.

Even if your sausage sizzle stand is known for having ‘the best sauce options out there’, chances are you’ll get a considerable uptake in interest and customer numbers.

kitchen with locally sourced produce

Food Trend #3: Niche Drinks to Wash it All Down

Which alcoholic/non-alcoholic drink trends do you expect to be hot in the next 12 months (Top 4 of 16 options)
Craft spirits 80%
Natural/organic wine 60%
Non-diary milk (Soy, almond, coconut etc.). 58%
Fermented probiotic drinks (eg. Kombucha, Kefir) 40%

Non-dairy milk options (58%), fermented probiotic drinks (40%), craft spirits (80%) and organic wine (60%) were leading trends for non-alcoholic and alcoholic drink trends.

Although they can all be applied across different hospitality types, the non-dairy milk and fermented probiotic drinks are more apt for cafes and lunchtime venues.

In other words, if you own a café, you should seriously consider adding soy, almond and coconut milks to your inventory. The good news is that they come in tetra-paks, so their shelf life is far longer than your refrigerated milks.

We’ll go out on a limb and say that preserving and fermentation are here to stay. And drinks like Kombucha and Kefir show no signs of being shaken down. These are also must-haves for any modern café, and even for restaurants keen to push a hip agenda.

As for natural or organic wines and craft spirits, these are both part of a more macro shift away from your big-name players, your Jack Daniels, Bacardi & such, in favour of (usually) local, small operations.

Restaurants should consider rejigging their drinks menu to incorporate craft spirits next to the main brands, if they have the ability and resources to do so. But don’t just pick a couple at random either. It pays to do some research and find some that really complement your style of food. It also pays to read up on exactly what a ‘craft spirit’ is.

bustling bar with craft spirits

Keen to stay informed about other hospitality related news and insights? The Impos Blog is your home of everything hospitality-related. Stay up-to-date and get great advice from the Impos experts to help your business succeed.

Laura Buyers
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