I’m going to take off my editor hat for a moment and change into something a little less comfortable.
Truthfully, I’m much more at ease reporting on current events than I am at prognosticating on things to come. I honestly lack the confidence to make any sort of guesstimate about anything. But as a general rule, I surround myself with brilliant people—and I am, at the very least, incredibly confident in their expertise. So much so that I’ve decided to stick my neck out and join the 2019 Trends in Noncommercial Foodservice bandwagon.
While 2018 certainly was the year of the plant-forward menu, 2019 will be more of a mixed bag. With beef supply up and prices down, there is certainly more room for beef on menus. Expect to see more African ingredients, such as fonio, an ancient grain, and berbere, a spicy seasoning blend. But don’t anticipate a lull in plant-based preparations. The plate has officially flipped, and we don’t suspect it’ll flip back anytime soon.
Noncommercial foodservice operations will take a leading role in the fight against food insecurity. Whether it’s a K-12 effort to grow summer- and holiday-feeding programs, a C&U move to build on-campus food pantries, and many more, the noncommercial foodservice industry is, at its core, committed to a mission of nourishment. Murray State University in Murray, Ky., for example, rolled out a Meal Bank program last year that pools students’ unused guest meals and donates them to students dealing with hunger. And Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis is the largest provider of meals for the Central Indiana Meals on Wheels program. “We serve these meals at cost, and we’re able to help feed people who really need it, not only in Indianapolis but all across central Indiana,” says Tom Thaman, director of food and nutrition services. “It’s such an important part of how we extend our reach and nourish people outside of our four walls.”
Expect more cashierless and kiosk-led concepts, and not necessarily for the reason you might be thinking. At The Ohio State University, campus dining sees 8,000 mobile transactions a day—35% of all foodservice transactions—according to Zia Ahmed, senior director for dining services at OSU. It also has two new kiosk- and mobile transaction-only locations. But those numbers don’t come at the expense of staffing. Rather, Ahmed says technology, when carried out properly, can enhance human relationships instead of undermining them. “Cashiers are telling us that when there are, say, 20 people waiting in line, they’re basically a ‘human robot,’” he told FSD in December. “They’re under a lot of pressure, and that negatively impacts the quality of authentic human interaction.”
And with that, I am happy to extend a very happy new year on behalf of all the trend spotters here at FoodService Director magazine. Here’s to making our very best guesstimates come true.
Have any trend predictions? Send them my way at email@example.com.