You know it and I know it… we’re entering the second half of the year, and it’s time to start planning for 2020 !?! Here are three things I have learned recently that you should consider:  

What's Next? Food!

The “Menu Maven and Trend Tracker” Nancy Kruse and Technomic gave a killer menu presentation at the National Restaurant Association Show. Among their findings:

Contrary to what others say:  LTO’s are ALIVE AND WELL! (Consumers are craving their seasonal items and the FOMO is real… just ask any Girl Scout at the start of her cookie sale or the Starbucks barista come late summer with the Pumpkin Spice latte rush.)

Overall, total menu items are down -1.2% over the past 5 years… However, the number of LTO’s is up +63.9% !! FURTHER, what used to be “sleepy” add-on items… are up +32.5%!

Source: Technomic Ignite

They pointed out 3 Key Trends:


64% are eating more food for it’s specific nutritional benefits.

Source: 2018 Technomic Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report.

There was a SEA of plant-based everything that was on hand on the NRA floor – meat, seafood, and egg…

Milk (Moo-Less) Replacements…

The move to CLEAN-er Menus (i.e. less sodium, less artificial ingredients, and a prouder label to share, and…

The start of the rise of FUNCTIONAL food and drink — where the consumer gets added health benefits from consuming something… hello superfoods! Here are some examples:


Consumer acceptance beyond Japanese and Chinese is accelerating quickly.

What used to be described as the “Far East” is becoming mainstream: Japanese Whiskey tied with Flavored Whiskey as the most popular addition to chain restaurant bars per Technomic.


Crediting the arrival of Israeli-American chefs, and the creation of craveable healthful food, this broad cuisine is gaining traction in the U.S.  Expect to see these ingredients on the menu: Toum (a Lebanese garlic sauce),  S’chug (a Mediterranean hot sauce), Za’atar (Middle Eastern spice mixture) and Urfa (a dried Turkish chili pepper). مرحبا or hello… who’s hungry now?

I find the VIBE Conference in February to be the best conference on all-things-Beverage.  This year was no different, and there were some great takeaways, including: 

1. Beverage still plays an important role in the overall guest experience. All the data I’ve seen supports this. In fact today you can often get a more premium experience sitting at the bar. 

Suntory Beer

2. Datassential showed that, just like in food, there’s a rise in interest in “Functional Beverages” — where there is an additional health benefit to consuming the product. (This Suntory beer has collagen as an ingredient and has been called the “Anti-Aging” beer!)

3. The HUGE rise in Non-Alcoholic Beverages (NAB’s). Two things are going on here…

  • Millennials (and potentially Generation Z) are showing indications of less alcohol consumption – perhaps part of a drive for health / self improvement?
  • In addition, the quality of NAB recipes is getting much better. In the past, a “virgin” drink was given little thought. Increasingly today, Mixologists are developing NAB’s that are every bit as good as a specialty cocktail.
Virgin Atlantic’s No Lo Menu features no to low alcohol options

Finally, I wanted to be sure that you saw this short, but brilliant perspective by industry expert Bonnie Riggs. She explains why, despite economic factors being favorable, our industry is still facing headwinds:

As Bonnie says: “Growth is there, you just have to work harder for it!”

Great insights, and very thought-provoking. 

If you’d like to discuss these trends and/or your business in greater depth, please reach out.  I would love to talk with you.

Best, Neil 

For 15 years, Growth Partners has provided outsourced Chief Marketing Officer consulting to restaurant companies. I am a fresh set of eyes for current CEO’s/ CMOs, as well as a Part-Time or Interim CMO for concepts looking to grow their businesses and brands. Follow me at or on Facebook @growthpartnersllc.