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10 Menu Trends to Watch in 2013

January 15th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

Do you own a quick-service restaurant? If so, you’ll want to know about the top 10 trends that QSR Magazine has identified for the coming year.

  1. Going local. While truly locally sourced ingredients may be tough for some quick-serve eateries to muster, you can substitute “fresh,” “made from scratch” or “healthy” for the word “local” and get the general idea.
  2. Healthy kids’ meals. No longer is this trend just driven by parents; kids are starting to embrace healthier menu items. The key is using things kids are familiar with: Asian dumplings, hummus, yogurt or sweet potato fries are all healthier options that don’t scare children away.
  3. Economic challenges. While the National Restaurant Association predicts slight growth, rising food costs and stagnating consumer incomes will create challenges for QSRs. You’ll need to be creative with your menu to avoid passing costs on to customers.
  4. Snacks as a meal. Continuing from 2012, this trend will keep growing as consumers demand to eat what they want, when they want it, while also looking for lower-priced items and smaller (healthier) portions.
  5. Vegetables. Moving beyond sweet potato fries and vegetables in sandwiches, steamed and roasted veggies are showing up on QSR menus. Avocado, artichoke hearts, beets, broccoli, cucumbers, edamame, jicama, mushrooms, red peppers, sprouts and zucchini are among the rising stars.
  6. Gluten-free. With nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults claiming they avoid gluten, adding gluten-free items to your menu can greatly increase your customer base.
  7. Trickle-up trends. QSR restaurants are no longer followers of high-end trends but are increasingly leading the way. Because QSR is one of the few growth areas in the restaurant industry, other eateries are looking to this niche for ideas. Fast-casual, one-concept eateries such as burger-only restaurants will continue to be hot in 2013, and there will also be more competition in the QSR niche.
  8. Ethnic food. Ethnic food is moving beyond the familiar staples. Quick-serve Asian food is expanding to include Thai and Vietnamese, while Mexican food lovers are discovering the cuisines of Brazil, Argentina and Peru.
  9. Beverage innovations. Think creative and healthy. Fresh fruit beverages, natural energy drinks, and local products such as house-made sodas and regional craft beer will be hot, as will vegetable-based drinks and smoothies.
  10. Health-care changes. More QSR chains are adding calorie counts and other nutritional information to the menu, whether legally required to do so or not. Customers seem to appreciate this information, so you might want to consider offering it.

How will you incorporate these trends in the coming year?

Image by Flickr user mhaller1979 (Creative Commons)

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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