How to Test Food Trends Without the High-Stakes Risk

How to Test Food Trends Without the High-Stakes Risk

March 9, 2020
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Everything has inherent risks. In your world, for example, chasing every food trend that comes along offers no guarantees it will be the right one for you and your operation. But the flip side is also true: if you don’t explore different options, you risk missing out on the next, big winner for your menu.

It presents quite the conundrum. Should you follow the trendiest, new global flavor trends? How much of what you offer should appeal to the growing popularity of flexitarian diets? Let’s look at several ways to test the food trend waters without the overwhelming fear of failure. 


Do your homework (then do it again)

While it sounds basic, it’s also easy to ignore this essential research step, especially if you’ve just read a single food trend report that sounds particularly compelling. Or someone offers a secondhand idea that seems like it’s a surefire, can’t-miss opportunity. 

Regardless of how compelling an idea sounds, there’s still no substitute for digging deep yourself — online and elsewhere. Start by using search terms like “flavor trends shaping the foodservice industry.” You can also scour industry publications that cater to cooking professionals, see what suppliers are suggesting on their sites and social channels, and look in the food/culture sections of magazines and local papers. 

And why stop at menu epiphanies when you’re doing all that homework? You can also be on the lookout for other interesting ideas, such as the experiential dining. 


Question everything (and everyone) 

You’re talking to people all day. Why not turn all those conversations into an opportunity to find out what’s new and exciting? Ask your staff, customers, industry connections, and pretty much anyone else who might have ideas that would help you get out ahead of a trend. 

And while you’re doing all that asking, be sure to compile an ongoing list of brainstormed ideas, no matter how seemingly outlandish. Even the most “out there” idea could someday be shaped into something that might work at your operation.


(Baby) step out of comfort zones

Since the first step is always the scariest, start small by including a single menu item from your research and conversations. Before you do, it’s always a good idea to have a planning session with your staff to discuss how best to implement it. Then be sure to get feedback you can trust from both co-workers and customers. Did your experiment work? Great. If not, don’t despair. Just repeat the entire process with something else. 

It’s easy to have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset about your menu. It’s also risky. When you do decide to test the waters, make sure you also have equipment that gives your trial the very best chance of success.

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