Now’s the time when everyone seems to be pulling out their crystal balls for the year ahead. Should you act on these predictions? Chances are, you already have.
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) is forecasting spikes in local and hyper-local sourcing, sustainability, chef-driven menus and healthful kids meals for 2016.
These things aren’t trends. In our market, they’re operating standards.
Take sourcing, for example. I ask almost every club chef I talk with where they are sourcing from, and they rattle off a list of vendors located within a few dozen miles of their club. They often go on to tell me interesting stories about how they’ve developed strong relationships with these suppliers and, as a result, tend to get first dibs on whatever’s fresh.
Do they buy everything from local vendors? Rarely. Club properties are far too big for small farmers to be able to adequately provide everything. But they buy what they can. And they’ve been doing it for a long time.
The same goes for hyper-local sourcing. There are few club chefs who don’t have (or plan to have) a garden. Big or small, herb or vegetable, clubs are the perfect place for gardens, and thus, hyper-local sourcing.
The rest of the trends listed in the NRA’s What’s Hot in 2016 forecast follow suit. Gaze if you must. You might glean some insight, leverage these lists for bragging rights, or at least get a few laughs.
That said, since now is the time when journalists are expected to tell readers what’s in store for next year, I’ll oblige with my predictions, specific to this industry.
Prediction #1: Continuing education will gain even more momentum. I’m not just saying this to promote our upcoming Chef to Chef Conference (though, since the opportunity has presented itself, you should probably head over to www.CheftoChefConference.com to register). But there’s no doubt that more clubs seem to be finding greater value in continuing-education opportunities than in years past. Whether this is at dedicated club chef conferences, through American Culinary Federation events, by pursuing a higher level of certification or just sending the team out to a trendy restaurant, it’s clear that clubs are seeing the value of investing in their people.
Prediction #2: Convenience-driven dining experiences will diversify. Over the past few years, clubs have moved toward more casual dining experiences, especially for families. I can see this trend evolving into more convenient dining opportunities, like dynamic to-go programs or better fast-casual fare, that will present themselves in new and interesting ways.
Prediction #3: The Next Wine Dinner. Chefs are always excited to tell me about their wine dinners. It’s like a playground where they get to push the outermost limits of their creativity. But wine now seems to be taking a backseat to other pairings, like scotch, beer and even cocktails.
Prediction #4: Better bars. Piggybacking on #3, clubs seem to be paying closer attention to cocktails and bar menus. My guess is that as the craft trend continues to build, clubs will find ways to provide members with a greater variety of libations.