Foodable's 2019 Predictions for the Restaurant Industry

Predictions are always a love-hate thing for me each year, it means I have to look deep into the industry and into my past 20+ years of reporting, indexing and analyzing with the leading foodservice operators in the world. Sometimes this analysis reveals the good times to come for the industry and sometimes it does not.

Last year, six out of eight of my predictions were right, most of which were easy to consider, but if you think about the timing in 2017 to detect these market shifts you have to be somewhat of a fortune teller and very lucky to get these right.

I was right on with plant-based menu items taking off, coffee trends ramping up infusions and even the beverage industry taking a hit in spirits, wine, and beer, the most troubling was the 8 percent overall drop in the industry prediction that turned out to be pretty accurate at 7.8 percent, according to our Foodable Labs data.  

2017 was not a great year for many, but the few emerging brands that excel did so in double-digit fashion.  

Unfortunately, I don't think this can continue. The bigger concern I have for 2019 is the overall health of our industry. Closings will continue like always but we will see some closures of brands we may have thought to be bulletproof just a few years ago.

Without further ado, let’s move on to my 2019 Predictions

Check the video above for more of my commentary on these predictions, but this will give a quick read on where I think the restaurant industry is going in 2019.

Plant-based is on a maverick of a wave that I don't see slowing down anytime soon, in fact, my recommendation to any protein producer is diversification and to double down on quality and animal welfare.

Facebook is in real trouble with the foodservice and foodie crowd with continued falling engagement levels to that of 2014. I don't see this turning around for the platform at all and the move to Instagram ads and destroying that platform may be their only hope before the feds scoop in with regulation.

I fear the ultimate breach will occur with foodservice, If I were Starbucks, I would Fort Knox that mobile app before we see a big hit on what could affect as many as 1 billion consumers. Big tech will continue to get pushback from consumers and though 2019 won't be the year for deregulation 2020 will be a campaign trail mantra for sure.

Airbnb, Amazon, and Uber will all reach a new level of innovation in food, and not in the ways you might think.

Amazon will take a new role as a ghost restaurant operator, Airbnb will take up restaurant reservations, and Uber will have to go head to head with the industry to win out in the delivery game

The emerging 150 brands will continue their trek on obliviating the competition. Watch out for a few of them that will dominate in the regional game like never before.

And unfortunately, the small craft beer makers will start to fall with a downturn in drinking trends and craft beer consumption falling. We will instead see a new landscape of how craft brewers will go to market, let the brew mergers begin.

Like every year, some of my predictions are outside the box and thinking in ways that others don't. What I have found is that if you follow consumer science, technology, and food you have some insights to a crossover matrix that starts to provide early indicators to trends that go unnoticed even in today's always on social media barrage of information.

If you're in the business, this will either be your best or worst year in the last decade. Think of it like this– to quote one of my favorite sayings by Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind” see ya on the backside.

Cava Acquires Mediterranean Fast Casual Chain Zoës Kitchen

A post shared by Zoës Kitchen (@zoeskitchen) on

The Meditteranean brand Cava announced that it will be acquiring its competitor Zoës Kitchen for $300 million, or for roughly $12.75 per share.

Will one of these fast casual chains become the Panera of the Mediterranean market?

It appears as though Ron Shaich, Panera Bread's founder, and former CEO is betting on it. 

The Cava Group is getting its fund investment for the acquisition from Act III Holdings which is led by Shaich.

When it comes to the Mediterranean category, there's a lot of potential for growth. The fast casual segment has become saturated with pizza, Mexican, and burger concepts all competing for the same millennial consumer. However, there is a small percentage of Mediterranean fast casual chains competing in this space. 

Cava, which is a spin-off concept from the full-service restaurant Cava Mezze, has grown over 70 percent over the past three years. There are now 327 Cava stores. 

We visited Cava back when it only had 25 units. Check out the video below to hear Cava Founder and Chef Dimitri Moshovitis as he shared with us some of the tricks to Cava’s success.

Although Cava is on the rise, not all Mediterranean-style restaurant chains, including Zoës have been as successful. 

A post shared by CAVA (@cava) on

"Competitor Noon Mediterranean, formerly Verts Mediterranean Grill, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this week and even Zoes has struggled," writes "CNBC." "In the first quarter, Zoes posted a net loss of $3.6 million, and saw sales its restaurants open at least one year fall 2.3 percent. Zoes saw a stretch of same-store sales declines throughout 2017, which followed a period of rapid expansion that resulted in high employee turnover at its restaurants and managers who had less experienced than needed."

Does Cava Group have what it takes to take Zoës Kitchen to the next level? 

“This truly allows us to reach guests in all markets, whether it is the coast or in-between,” said Brett Schulman, CAVA CEO in an interview. “We’re looking forward to learning more about the Zoe’s business and understanding how we can apply a lot of the digital capabilities we’ve built through the years at CAVA."

Read more about the big fast casual merger at "Reuters." 

Art Brews Business at J. Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing

Art Brews Business at J. Wakefield and Wynwood Brewing
  • David Rodriguez and Adrian Castro of Little Havana's Union Beer Store take us to the most iconic Wynwood breweries.

  • Wynwood Brewing and J. Wakefield Brewery show us how the vibe of Miami's Wynwood art permeates the craft beer neighboorhood.

On this episode of Beer Artisan, were exploring Miami’s famed art neighborhood, Wynwood, and the craft beer businesses that have popped up out of its art scene.

The Union Beer Store was started by husband and wife duo, David and Cici Rodriguez. The pair had been close to the beer scene for years and one year ago decided to strike out on their own and create Union, a beer store/bar with a fun, super laid-back vibe. With more than 300 different beers in their cooler, they offer locals and tourists a wide range of tastes to explore. Adrian, David’s right-hand man, helms the bar at Union, helping visitors choose the right brew. So it only made sense to have David and Adrian show us around the Wynwood neighborhood.

First up, J. Wakefield. John Wakefield got started brewing with a $50 Mr. Beer homebrew kit gifted to him by his wife. Slowly but surely, the hobby transformed into a lifestyle and brewing beers on his stove evolved into a jam-packed production facility producing a number of unique brews. John tells us how he combined his life as a beer geek with his life as a Star Wars geek to create his incredibly designed, Star Wars themed tap room which highlights the work of a number of local artists and adds to the incredible vibe you can only find in Wynwood.

Next, it’s on to Wynwood Brewing, Wynwood’s first brewery. Started by Luis G. Brignoni, Wynwood also incorporates local artists’ work into the design of the space. Luis invited local artist Lola Blue to design bottles for the brewery, further cementing the relationship between Wynwood art and its businesses. Wynwood has won a number of Great American Beer Festival medals and is aiming to churn out 12,000 barrels of beer this year thanks to help from the Craft Beer Alliance.

 

Brignoni made a deal with the CBA in which they would have a 24.5% stake in the company (the threshold for still being defined as "craft" by the Brewers Association) and in return, help grows the production and distribution of Wynwood Brewing brews. This has opened up their tanks, allowing Wynwood to be more creative with their in-house production.

If you’ve never been to Wynwood, you should give it a visit ASAP. Just listen to our Wynwood Guide, Robert William de los Rios from The RAW Project. But if you can’t, watch this episode of Foodable’s Beer Artisan for a journey through the art-driven neighborhood to learn more about its history and vibe.

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