Staying on Trend, Without Being Trendy

Healthful kids’ meals. Locally sourced meats and seafood. Sustainability. Gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items. These are only some of the top 2012 food/menu trends recently revealed by The National Restaurant Association.

But, staying on trend without becoming too trendy is an art – a tricky one at that.  And as you develop and create your restaurant business plan, menu content, menu design, restaurant design and even name, it’s important to keep the mantra of being on trend versus being trendy in mind.

“There is a value in this business to staying on trend, without jumping on the bandwagon and being TRENDY,” says VSAG’s Dan Simons. “You really need to have your radar up to protect yourself from stampeding with the herd. Know what’s happening in the market, and why, and prepare your plan accordingly.”

As restaurant service professionals who have experience walking that fine line, here are some tips to keep you on trend:

Don’t Run, Walk. Everyone goes running towards fads. The key here is to wait and watch. Let everyone else run by you – for now.  Take this opportunity to study the front-runners and understand what they are doing – and how it’s being received in their business.  Use this information to help you decide if and when you want to jump in the game.  Remember, just because you love cotton candy doesn’t mean this American-favorite works with your Thai concept.
Get the Facts. If you decide to jump in the game, arm yourself with tried and true statistics. For example, consider ice cream. No matter how you serve it (creamy, gelato, tart, healthy, trendy flavors), people (young and old) love it! But, look at the facts: Who is in the forefront? Why? What are their methodologies? What part of the country sells the most ice cream? What genre has stabilized across the board? Review your findings, then ask yourself: Do I really think I can sell enough ice cream on the east coast in the winter to clear overhead costs like rent, salaries, health insurance and more in a big city like Washington, New York or Boston?
Think Long Term. It’s imperative to build your restaurant business plan for today and for the long term.  For example, sure there is a huge cupcake trend in the US right now–approximately 600,000 cupcakes are sold per day – but what happens in 10 years from now? Does your brand have a point of difference that will set you apart in an already over-saturated market?

The information is out there. You just have to know how to find it and use it to your advantage. VSAG knows the importance of analyzing the trends, and studies the competition constantly to ensure we are able to offer unique and well-versed advice when assisting a client with their restaurant business plan, concept development and day-to-day operations.