As we bid farewell to 2013 and ring in a new year, the importance of preparation becomes more stressed, especially in an industry that’s constantly evolving. One can only be so prepared for what the future holds, but gaining insight through industry professionals can certainly help. Last week, we gave readers predictions from three restaurant executives of what 2014 has in store. We’ve also recently covered what you can expect to happen on the social and digital front. The two – social & digital and the restaurant industry – are becoming much more integrated as chefs become more savvy on social media platforms and technology in restaurants continues to thrive.
But what’s a 2014 prediction series without some chef involvement? After all, the chef is the backbone of a restaurant. Luckily, we were able to pull Chef Justin Beckett, Executive Chef & Owner of Beckett’s Table in Phoenix, AZ, out of the kitchen for a bit to talk social media, culinary trends and technology in the dining room.
Q: What are some of the operational challenges, if any, that you're seeing in the industry as we become a more digital society? Do you feel restaurants & chefs need to adapt more to social/digital to become successful or does culinary overshadow that, no matter what?
Chef Justin Beckett: I know chefs who are tremendous talents in the kitchen, have no social media experience, but still have bustling restaurants. On the other hand, social media has given us tech-savvy chefs yet another tool to bring a potential guest into our restaurant’s experience even before they reserve a table. In my experience, social media has made chefs more approachable and able to connect with the everyday home cook.
Q: Any predictions on the amount of new chefs coming onto the scene? What are your thoughts on the evolution of small emerging empires that continue to pop up (i.e. 50 Eggs, Pubbelly boys, Marc Forgione)?
CJB: I believe that talented chefs will continue in the footsteps of these great chefs and small companies. All the resources available to today allow chefs to continue to open restaurants that are meaningful to our local culinary scenes. Our guests are encouraging us to continue to open more concepts and locations.
Q: Culinary-wise, what are some trends you're looking forward to seeing (or be put to rest) in 2014?
CJB: I am continually encouraged by the direction of the culinary climate. The trend that seems to be bursting with excitement now are the emergence of the chef driven, chef owned and chef run boutique restaurant groups. Chefs are creating these unique dining destinations for locals, foodies and tourists alike. I believe that chefs are also searching out the hidden gem locations within their cities and bringing life back to those neighborhoods. I look forward to these trends expanding and flourishing in 2014.
Q: It seems everyone caught onto craft beer and mixology in 2013. Do you see any type of specific categories (whiskey, vodka, a specific wine) that will skyrocket in 2014?
CJB: I’m noticing a lot of buzz around small batch spirits and wines from Arizona.
Q: Do you think technology will start invading dining rooms in 2014? What about the advancement of reservation systems?
CJB: Yes, technology has already invaded the dining room. From Foursquare and the Yelp app to Instagram and cameras with "food" settings, technology is taking the opportunity to capitalize on the booming restaurant and food industry. I have actually been able to approach and thank a guest in our dining room after her kind comments on social media because it pinged my phone while I was in the kitchen, just a great example of technology working for us.