CHICAGO — Technomic, a market research company, predicts the foodservice market will return to regular levels of growth in 2024.
The market outlook comes from Technomic’s “What’s in Store for 2024” report, which spotlights the company’s biggest foodservice trends of next year.
“Success for sit-down restaurants will depend on the adoption of competitive price positions and availability of exceptional value and experiences that are different and engaging,” said Technomic.
The report’s top trend, resuming regular growth, signals increased market stability following a turbulent period of significant losses and subsequent gains over the course of the pandemic. Operators should expect to revert to pre-pandemic, low single-digit growth as high prices continue to impact consumer behavior. Technomic noted there may be difficulties in creating organic growth due to the aging US consumer base and slow population growth.
“Foodservice stakeholders once again need to tap into their reserves of creativity to thrive,” the company said. “They will need to be ready for hurdles and develop contingency plans. Operators must lean into technology, menu and service innovation that avoids disruption of the consumer experience and, when possible, takes advantage of existing ingredients or resources.”
Technomic’s second trend sees consumers looking to reduce foodservice costs by cutting back on delivery orders. However, consistent consumer interest in convenience will create opportunities in takeout and drive-thru ordering. Cost-saving behaviors will lead to a rise in breakfast and brunch occasions as well, with consumers shifting away from more costly lunch and dinner menu prices.
The report also indicates improvements to restaurant technology will be a major trend in 2024. Areas of focus are likely to include online ordering systems that streamline takeout and drive-thru advance ordering, kitchen equipment that can automate repetitive tasks and data software that helps drive operational efficiency. Foodservice technology investments have become a focal point over the last two years, with operators reporting that restaurant technology usage is lagging behind advancements made in other markets.
Technomic’s 2024 menu trends center on in-depth menu descriptors, unconventional flavors and tomato applications. The company forecasts that vague meal descriptions are falling out of popularity in favor of comprehensive ingredient information and detailed listings. Additionally, the menu offerings that display specific regional or cultural roots can capitalize on increased consumer interest in provenance dating back to last year.
“Not only will ingredient varietal types find momentum in menu descriptions, but so will callouts of regions or countries of origin and influence,” Technomic said. “This in-depth menu detail will further push quality, premiumization and transparency in the consumer mindset.”
Consumers will additionally seek out “off-the-wall, headscratcher fare” next year, according to the company. Technomic cites the rising popularity of pickle-flavored products as a leading cause behind the desire for experimental taste profiles, which is expected to include savory desserts, pungent ingredient combinations and odd beverage blends, like spice-laden smoothies. Tahini-flavored drinks fall under this prediction, too, and the ingredient already has been seen trending in applications at Natural Products Expo East and in the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter report for 2024.
Tomatoes similarly should see an uptick in non-traditional applications due to their existing appeal and potential health benefits. Offerings may range from tomato-based desserts and meat replacements to jams, sauces and dips. Technomic also suggests alcoholic beverages will be a go-to format for tomato-infusions, and the sentiment is further echoed by data from Yelp that found a 131% increase in searches for “tomato-tini” martinis.