What 2018 Will Bring to the Table

Looking ahead to restaurant and special event trends expected to emerge in the new year

By Jonathan Morse, CEO and Founder of Tripleseat

As we begin 2018, it’s time to take a look back at some popular trends in the industry—and predict which ones will continue. One of the biggest trends of last year was the increase in private dining arrangements, as venues provided customers with more of a unique and personal experience. At Tripleseat, we believe this type of dining will remain popular in 2018.

Along with more venues participating in private dining, integrating advanced technology will come into play, as well as the following emerging trends that event planners and caterers should know about.

Private Dining Spaces Become More Common as Events Prove Biggest Revenue Generator

When the economy is doing well, restaurants generally do, too. However, there are a host of non-economic factors that make it a volatile industry. To minimize risks, more stores are building private dining into their business plans, and this trend will likely grow. Expect to see more venues adding private dining to their business models, as well as more venues building private dining into their establishments. In new build-outs, event spaces will be par for the course.

With private dining—contracted business in a private or semi-private room—restaurants get much higher margins. Revenue from private dining is also on the books, and that expected revenue is a welcome change from the general, transient, day-to-day sales.

Established venues will undergo renovations and otherwise work with their existing spaces to seize the growing opportunity.

Quest for New Experiences Opens Doors to Non-Traditional Venues

Consumers today are all about experiences, and that trend extends to restaurants and special events. Serving heavy passed hors d’oeuvres and offering an open bar doesn’t cut it anymore; guests want to be entertained. In 2018, expect to see a lot more events being held at non-restaurant or catering hall spaces, and instead in places like bowling alleys, movie theaters and even go-kart tracks. Even traditional spaces will be adapting to the trend, adding elements that complement the standard menu and turn a meal into a true event.

Technology Adoption Will Trickle Up Based on Consumer Demand

Where there is consumer demand, there will be adoption of advanced technologies like augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR). For example, nearly every restaurant today has WiFi, not because they want to, but because their guests want them to. Restaurants using social media can also be added to this category. It’s people who are using Facebook on a daily basis that expect to be able to find a restaurant and make reservations without leaving that platform.

Independent and Boutique Hotels Team Up with Hospitality Services

In this customer-is-king business landscape, hotels have to deliver on high expectations, and often catering is not really their forte. Dining establishments in hotels often operate independently, so the hotel, which has its own organization, books the events and works with the restaurants to deliver what the client wants. To remain competitive, more partnerships and collaborations will occur to let each party play to their strengths. It’s a real collaboration, and to the client, it’s totally seamless.

Personalization Is the New Automation

Automation may be great for a lot of things, and that may be the way the world is moving, but when it comes to dining, people do not want to be served by robots. There was a time, not too long ago, that the trend favored efficiency. In event planning, it wasn’t uncommon to set up an entire event without ever speaking to a person. It was all “click this box for chicken or this one for fish.” And for a while, people seemed to like it that way, but then there was a mass realization that the result just wasn’t as good.

Now, personalization and high-touch service are what guests are looking for, and the best results will come when you work closely with your customers. No matter what the budget is, you should leave them feeling as if they’re getting the bespoke experience of their dreams.

Dirty French in New York is a venue that does this particularly well. For example, I love their carpaccio, but it’s an appetizer and not a main. If I’m hosting an event there, and that’s what I want as my main, then they’ll make that happen. In fact, they might built an entire menu around the carpaccio. That makes me happy, and I’ll spread the word.

In an industry where loyalty is king and word-of-mouth is queen, a consultative and interactive dialogue with a customer can build a long and fruitful relationship.

Customer Relationships and Technology Will Lead the Way

A common thread throughout these trends is understanding what customers are looking for, and using technology to make that happen. Understanding who your customer is, what your customer wants, and the best way to deliver it will help to create an experience that is beneficial for all. Though technology is lagging in the hospitality department, customer demand will boost its adoption in the coming year and spread it across the industry to help increase private dining offerings that are personalized, and birth new alliances between unlikely partners. 2018, we’re excited for what you’ll be bringing to the table.

About the Author

Jonathan Morse is the CEO and founder of Tripleseat, a web application for restaurants, hotels and unique venues, used by more than 35,000 event managers and restaurant owners. Tripleseat helps these businesses increase their event bookings and streamlines the planning process. It is the first web-based system created by restaurant event planners for restaurant event planners. Morse has been involved in the restaurant and hotel business for more than 30 years, with roles ranging from a busboy and line cook at Massachusetts restaurants, to floor manager at Backbay Restaurant Group, to New England regional sales manager for Starwood Hotels. Before starting Tripleseat, Morse was a vice president of sales for a web start-up that delivered business intelligence reporting to the restaurant industry. For more information, visit tripleseat.com.