Four Middleby Foodservice Predictions for 2024

The foodservice industry navigated the challenges of recent years with resiliency and creativity. That’s one reason Middleby is so proud to be part of the foodservice, restaurant, and hospitality communities. It’s truly inspiring. We expect nothing less in 2024 as we release our top foodservice predictions for the coming year.

Despite those disruptions caused by the pandemic, the sector has reclaimed a significant share of consumers’ food spending in 2023 compared to retail. However, as we look ahead to 2024, the industry will encounter fresh challenges, including high prices and waning consumer confidence, necessitating a renewed focus on innovation and adaptability.

Impact of the Economy on Restaurants

The tumultuous journey of the foodservice industry, marked by substantial losses during the pandemic followed by robust recovery, is expected to stabilize in 2024. According to a “What’s in Store for 2024” report from Technomic, most restaurant industry segments should return to the low single-digital growth rates we were accustomed to in pre-pandemic times. As consumers look for more affordable dining options, we anticipate that limited-service establishments will benefit. In contrast, full-service sit-down restaurants will need to differentiate themselves with tactics like competitive pricing, exceptional value, providing engaging experiences, and curating menus that will attract audiences.

Similarly, the increase in food delivery during the pandemic is also a segment we expect to change in the coming years. According to a Datassential 2024 trends report, the increase and high cost of delivery fees are becoming so high that 39 percent of survey respondents claimed to abandon orders after seeing the cost of the associated delivery fees. As such, takeout will make gains.

Influence of the Environment and Sustainability

Another challenge we expect to see is the continuing impact of extreme weather events. For example, consumers are more likely to avoid going out in inclement weather like heat waves and blizzards. The increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will continue to affect restaurant sales and traffic. Operators must incorporate weather scenarios into their planning, considering kitchen reconfigurations, energy-saving equipment, and climate-responsive menu adjustments.

On menus, the impact of sustainability will result in greater transparency. Menu descriptions will become more detailed in 2024. Specific references to ingredient varieties, regions of origin, and culinary influences will replace vague terms. This shift towards granular menu details aims to enhance quality, premiumization, and transparency in the consumer mindset.

Demographics and Popular Dayparts

A significant challenge facing all restaurants in 2024 and beyond is the aging American consumer base and the deceleration of population growth. These demographic shifts make organic growth more challenging. As a result, operators must strategize to attract and retain customers in an environment where demographic dynamics are evolving.

At the same time, different times of the day are becoming popular with today’s consumers. A decline in delivery spending is projected, as we mentioned, and we expect to see the workweek deliver a big breakfast boom as patrons opt for more affordable restaurant meals. Weekends will witness the rise of brunch as the new dinner, featuring appealing social elements, diverse beverage selections, and lower-average checks.

In Our Foodservice Predictions, the Flavors Still Matter

Following the pickle craze of the previous year, 2024 will showcase even more unconventional food trends. Look for savory sweets and cocktails like fat-infused fried desserts and garlic/mole-infused beverages, as well as unique combinations such as fermented honey and truffle horseradish. Restaurants will cater to sensory-seeking consumers inspired by social media platforms like TikTok.

Looking for a final foodservice prediction? The tomato will take center stage with diverse applications, including desserts, meat replacements, jams, ferments, and frozen preparations. Global tomato-based sauces and dips from various cuisines will gain popularity, adding a flavorful twist to culinary offerings. The versatility, appeal, and health benefits of tomatoes will contribute to their prominence in the foodservice landscape.

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Food & Wine

Topics: Foodservice Industry Trends, The Middleby Movement