The Next Idea’s Eating Out Forecast 2014 and forward

It’s that time again – when we review the past year and predict how food and hospitality trends will appear in 2014 and beyond.

Forecasting future directions relies on a careful balance of correctly interpreting history and foundation, along with an analysis of the current consumer frame of mind.

One thing we know for certain–the traditional research methods are less relevant in our modern dynamic consumer landscape. Therefore, we continue to employ non-traditional, innovative research techniques in order to successfully forecast trends. One method thatThe Next Idea researchers have found increasingly important when compiling forecasts, is to take into account world events and global trends. Our theory is that by understanding the consumer mentality, (which is impacted by its surrounding world and events), we can more effectively forecast evolving expectations. 

To accurately predict hospitality trends, we focus on presenting an appraisal of the restaurant, food, and hospitality consumer–identifying the overall consumer landscape, examining the consumer mindset, and finally, forecasting notable ideas and trends for 2014 and beyond.

The Next Idea’s report is based on findings from leading market-research firms, augmented by our own consultants’ grassroots and global experience this past year working with our national and international clients. It is also based on our experience observing and forecasting trends for the past 11 years.


Like most 12 month spans, 2013 has been an eventful year. We witnessed the usual political hostilities around the globe: French intervention in the Northern Mali conflict;the Al Shabaab attack at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Naroibi, Kenya; and continued unrest in the Middle East, to name a few. Here in the U.S., we have danced from political crisis to…………well more political crises, with the debt ceiling and Obamacare headlining the squabbling. Indeed, on first glance, 2013 seems like just another year, with some twists and turns that will ultimately be written up in history.

Looking deeper, however, 2013 was far from a normal year.It was a year that set important changes in motion, a unique historical year. For example, not for 600 years has a Pope abdicated his position. Yet on February 28th, Pope Benedict XVI, resigned, to the disbelief of the world’s 1.2billion people. Following that, never before has a Pope from the Americas been chosen.Yet the 76-year-old Jesuit, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected the Catholic Church’s Pope, taking the name Francis, becoming the first Latin American and first Jesuit to be pontiff. Other groundbreaking events followed.

In June, an unknown defense contractor employee, Edward Snowden,informed the world that the American government has been spying on millions of its citizens, and that a platform named Prism gives the government direct access to data held by Google, Facebook, Apple and other U.S. internet giants–a fact amazingly denied by said groups. Just as the Snowden ordeal died down, another spying scandal reared its head. Americawas found to be spying on its international friends—Germany, in particular, and the media extravaganza took off again.

In December, the world was reminded of its shameful past, this time through the sad passing of South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, activist, lawyer, and philanthropist,Nelson Mandela. With eulogies and condolences streaming across virtually all available media platforms, it became clear that the world lost more than an adored freedom fighter. Madiba, as he was widely known, was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate. While he advocated violent struggle in his earlier days, he changed his thinking as he grew older.When freed from RobbenIsland, Mandela said: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” His putting into practice what he preached was what made Mandela such a revered statesman. Mandela was no saint, but nevertheless proved himself capable of outstanding courage, kind-hearted generosity and, at critical points in South Africa’s history, inventive and virtuous acts that kept his country from all-out civil and racial war. As the year closed, reflections of Madiba’s impact on the world at large proved deeply moving as we consider his true legacy: teaching the world forgiveness on an international scale.

Despite the magnitude of the events, and the covert activities of the U.S. government, 2013 was not a year where major political events will shape the future. In fact, it’s the bigger issues that came in small packages that will ultimately shape our minds and how we behave as the decade progresses.

For example, one might very well refer to 2013 as the year of the woman, as it was women who shaped our perspectives perhaps more than anything else.

Some examples:

Julia Bishop, was appointed Australia’s first female foreign minister. She has earned her position in the woefully women-deprived Australian federal cabinet as the nation’s top diplomat and has rightfully received international recognition for this achievement.

In the U.S., Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve vice chair, was nominated [and now confirmed] to succeed Ben Bernanke as the chairwoman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Systemat a pivotal time for the U.S. economy and the Fed’s monetary policies. Yellen is the first woman to head any country’s major central bank anywhere in the world, and given the new world economies, she is arguably the most powerful woman in the world.

Looking forward – at center stage, despite the Democrats facing a tough year, chances are that the foundation has been set to elect the America’s first female president. The Daily Beast’s Myra Adams reported in August 2013 that “all signs point to Hillary Clinton coasting to the Democrat Party nomination and winning the White House.”Adams listed 16 plausible reasons why Clinton will secure the top spot. (Adams possesses a good political forecasting record – in 2011 she co-wrote ‘12 Reasons Obama Wins in 2012’). The fact that Clinton may or may not win the presidency is actually irrelevant – it’s the reality of the possibility that represents the underlying and systemic change.

On the international level, it is broadly appreciated that Baroness Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the EU, has made an enormous contribution in reaching diplomatic agreements between longstanding adversaries. Ashton took a central role in bringing Serbia and Kosovo to an agreement in April 2013 that normalized their ties, and in the P5+1 talks with Iran which led to the November 2013 Geneva interim agreement on the Iranian nuclear program.

Notwithstanding the above, and some ‘big picture’ political change afoot, the true transformation has been happening at the grass roots level, and it’s the young voices that are being heard. In India, the tragic case of young rape victim Jyoti Singh, literally moved the world as news of her repugnant and ferocious attack on a Delhi bus took over the media in late 2012, and well into 2013. Unfortunately, this type of heinous attack was not new in India, but the reaction was. Though Jyoti was flown to Singapore for treatment, she sadly died from internal injuriessustained during the attack. Subsequently, large public protests emerged against the Indian government for not providing adequate security for women when thousands of protesters clashed with security forces. Similar protests took place in major cities throughout the country. Jyoti was posthumously awarded one of the U.S. State Department’s 2013 International Women of Courage Awards.The citation stated that “for millions of Indian women, her personal ordeal, perseverance to fight for justice, and her family’s continued bravery is helping to lift the stigma and vulnerability that drive violence against women.” Jyoti’s name has become a symbol of women’s empowerment. She has lit a flame not just for India, but for the entire world.

In October 2013, a young Reddit user submitted a 3 minute YouTube clip of Nada Al-Ahdal, an 11 year old Yemini girl who ran away from home to avoid being married. Within 4 hours, the video had been uploaded nearly 4,700 times, unusually high for Reddit. This follows the well documented case in 2009, of 10 year-old Nujood Ali, who successfully divorced her 30 year old husband, after, being married at the age of 10, and subsequently raped, before the onset of puberty. Nujood’s courageous defiance has inspired other young women to not just challenge their customs, but to demand change. Nujood was named Glamour Woman of the Year in 2008, and proclaimed “One of the greatest women I have ever seen,” by Hilary Clinton. Her book continues to sell, and she continues to document her life as she grows up, with continued and significant interest in her story from inside and outside of Yemen.

Woman’s empowerment in 2013, more than anything, was shaped by a young woman from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai. Malala, was shot by the Taliban for speaking up for women’s education. What was remarkable was not that the Taliban would lower themselves to shoot a defenseless 15 year old girl in the head. It was what has happened since that day in October 2102. Malala was flown to the United Kingdom, where she made a miraculous recovery and has since been on an extraordinary journey. She has spoken at the United Nations, been guest of honor on countless national and international news channels, become a global symbol of peaceful protest, and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her book, published in late 2013, has hit record sales.

What does all this mean for the consumer and how do today’s events interface with tomorrow’s world? At The Next Idea, we believe that the world’s mood is becoming increasingly more synchronized.This in turn impacts all areas of consumer behavior, both domestically and globally. Pre-2008, consumer behavior was impacted through awareness, whereas post-2008 consumer behavior is shaped by awareness and advocacy – hence the importance of understanding the macro change in play when forecasting consumer behavior for how and what we eat over the coming years.

We are, after all, what we eat!

As we look forward, where is the link between the sphere of global change and the microcosm of emerging food trends? Simplistically, the connection is derived through transparency and honesty. As world events and advocacy pump through traditional and modern media platforms, consumers can’t help but take notice of grass roots messages and connect with other consumers who are exposed to the same. They are forming new opinions and their needs modify.This has led to a demand wave shift and an overwhelming mandate for honesty and truth at large as well as in the human fuel we call ‘food’.

Indeed, in 2010, The Next Idea forecasted that honesty was the new shout-out for post- recession consumerism. We stated: ‘When it comes to industry, more and more, the consumer is demanding honesty.’ Today, it’s easy to see the subtle but profound changes everywhere. And it’s easy to understand why. In 2008, this honesty requirement movement was driven by the deep shock and resentment over, enormous executive bonuses when corporate America was laying off hundreds of thousands of workers, along with the government’s impotency in protecting against the greatest monumental economic failure in history. But that was four years ago, and hardships have since eased.So, what’s driving this continued trend and consumer need?

The primary driver in all of this is transparency in today’s new media platforms; primarily the internet and social media.We all have witnessed the rapid growth of Facebook and Twitter, but other platforms are following suit. Instagram, for example, reports that the top 100 global brands have seen engagement grow by 350% in just the last year. This results in brands being forced to monitor consumer mood swings almost hourly, and of course gives the consumer more power than ever before. 

Forecast For 2014 and beyond

While 2013 has been a unique and exciting year, we now explore how this impacts the future. At The Next Idea, we are passionate about trends and about focusing our concept development work toaddress future trends before they become part of the  mainstream market. We welcome your thoughts and feedback, and we invite you to email us with your comments, whether you believe we nailed it – or not!

In America, we have become obsessed with food.On TV we have Hell’s Kitchen, Bar Rescue, Top Chef and America’s Test Kitchen, to name only a few. Online, Pinterest and Foodspotting are two of the most widely used applications. Across the nation,farmer’s markets have virtually taken over in every neighborhood. In turn, we have become nations of discerning eaters, posting our menu wherever we can, where it was bought, how it tasted, and with whom it was consumed, yet despite this, we really can’t cook!

That’s of course good news for food service and food retail industries that can offer  convenience and provide the products to fill our cravings and curiosity for food.The consumer, however, is setting parameters as to what they will and will not buy. At a macro level, there are six key areas where consumers are making big demands:

  1. Labeling
  2. Health
  3. Brave flavors and uncontaminated ingredients
  4. Nostalgia
  5. Environmental Impact
  6. Fairtrade

Let’s take a closer look at these primary areas of the consumer’s new demands:

  1. Labeling

It’s not new that consumers want to know what is in their food.They are, however, seeking a far more honest description along with sources and nutritional data.  The need for information driven by general awareness and in many cases dietary needs means that labeling is a primary driver in consumer food purchasing. Labeling is not just needed in print. QR codes (an optically machine-readable label that is attached to an item and that records information related to that item) are increasingly used by consumers to access additional product and nutritional information.

  1. Health

Sugar’s reputation took a gigantic hit in 2013.Headlines like ‘Is Sugar the New Tobacco?’ were flung about as if we had discovered smallpox all over again. It is generally agreed that sugar is bad for  dental health and can cause weight gain.Due to the rise in diabetic and obesity disorders, consumers are increasingly linking added sugar to cardiovascular disease and a range of other chronic diseases and ailments – even Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Notwithstanding sugar’s new bad boy image, health in general continues to play an enormous part in consumer behavior, and simply cannot be ignored for the foreseeable future.

  1. Brave flavors and uncontaminated ingredients

The ongoing interest in farm to table has continued to influence consumer behavior. Farm-sourced foods is not just about better flavor. Local farmers can grow produce for optimal flavor and nutritional value instead of focusing on the resiliency needed for produce to travel long distances before being consumed.

  1. Nostalgia

As an adjunct to the farm to table movement, food’s nostalgic associationsare being revived. The sensory experience we derive from food is powerful. We turn to food when we feel stressed or anxious.Food is always present when we celebrate or mourn, and it presents a memory trigger that reminds us of a better time in our lives and in our communities. There is growing consumer interest in burgers, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches – offering inexpensive reminders of childhood in pre-recession America. However, this time it’s ‘home-made’, ‘artisan’ and ‘fresh’ done modern!

  1. Environmental impact

Changes in agricultural practice over the past 50 years have increased the world’s capacity to provide food for its people through increases in productivity, greater diversity of foods and less seasonal dependence. Food availability has also increased as a consequence of rising income levels and falling food prices.

However, since the year 2000, there has been increasing interest and concern among consumers about the environmental impact of food.  This has fuelled the concept of sustainability, which was ranked number five by chefs among the top menu trends for 2012, with the narrower category “local food” garnering three of the top five spots (NRA’s 2012 national survey).  Consumer attitudes to organic foods are complex, often linking food to health, the environment, ethics and identity. The consumer is learning how these issues interrelate, along with the impact of accompanying packaging, which is forcing producers and retailers to respond.

  1. Technology

The relationship between technology and food is becoming closer than ever before. Social media, mobile and online marketing and cloud computing are creating new opportunities to engage with consumers and for consumers to interact with brands. Consumers can check ingredients, nutritional values and the source of each ingredient and then share it on Facebook.Although this is still embryonic, technology and food trends will force some of the biggest changes in how we eat over the next 20 years.Our trend forecasts identify these areas and predict further change on the horizon. 

2014 TNI’s Food Forecast: Green, Local, Raw, Deconstructed and Cyber!

Based on The Next Idea’s understanding of the consumer, we have identified the following trends that represent change in the coming years.

  1. Tradition is the new modern

Innovation is often considered the creation of something new. However, one of the most notable trends forecasted for the next 10 years is something with which our ancestors would be well familiar–the ever growing farm to table movement.

The move towards local foods has been prevalent since the aftermath of the recession. When it comes to food, however, this means artisan methods and local farms. In fact, the more archaic the production methods the better. Consider 100 years back when virtually all food was organic!

2014 will continue to see more artisanal and ‘natural’ products, not just in food, but in wellness and beauty. TNI predicts that this movement will continue for the foreseeable future, and today’s consumers will aspire to live their organic lives more in the past than ever before.

  1. Global world – Local thinking

Increasingly, across the world, consumers are looking for food grown in their own region, rather than distributed frozen product. Although this is highly prevalent in America, the same approach is being adopted in other parts of the world. In the U.S., the National Restaurant Association’s recently released “What’s Hot in 2014” chef survey found local sourcing figured in four of the top ten trends. The most notable trend turned out to be locally sourced seafood and meats, followed by locally grown produce.

Some of the larger restaurant chains feature local sourcing as part of their messaging. Chipotle, for example, created a game that raised awareness of the fast-Mexican chain’s local-sourcing initiatives. Panera Bread’s campaign “Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously” promoted its food sourcing. Supermarket groups like Whole Foods and Trader Joes also heavily promote the local elements of their products.

  1. Organics are now hydroponics

Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only, or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel, mineral wool, expanded clay pebbles or coconut husk. This process is genuinely organic, and is being employed by a variety of retailers and restaurants in an effort to demonstrate commitment to fresh and sustainable produce.

Some farmers have mastered hydroponic growing and this trend is poised to take off even further. TNI predicts that there will be a surge in specialty food items being grown indoors. For instance; Am Grow Farms is investing $1 million into a controlled indoor growing environment. This is predicted to generate 1,500 pounds of Oyster, Shiitake and Miatake mushrooms a week, and an estimated 78,000 pounds during the first year of operation. Other high-value crops will most likely include year-round locally grown salad greens, such as those used at MAD Greens in Denver. Increasingly, restaurants, will grow the vegetables to be served on the consumer’s plate.

From a social aspect, hydroponics can be used to address hunger in developing nations and food shortages resulting from climate change or freak weather events. Hydroponics also represents a potential  low cost solution to high food commodity pricing being adopted on an international scale.

NASA has done extensive hydroponic research for its Controlled Ecological Life Support System or CELSS. Hydroponics intended for Mars uses LED lighting to grow in different color spectrums with much less heat.

Fresh produce, grown in controlled environments free from pests and pesticides will have considerable benefits: 1) vertical farming where food can be produced faster and safer on less square footage 2) transporting food while it is still technically planted 3) self-sustaining households through domestic growing. The value and opportunity is virtually limitless.

  1. Deconstruction

Deconstructed dishes may take the foods that are normally combined in the dish, change their forms, and then plate them together in a different way. It’s not just about taking the dish apart, but putting its elements back together. Deconstruction has been a trend in higher end restaurants for a while. Modern cuisine chefs have been playing with this type of culinary humor for some time. But it’s ready for prime time now. We will see deconstruction in many formats throughout 2014 and beyond.  The fun part is that deconstruction can even be easier than making a composed dish. For example, burgers, Caesar salad and even chicken pot pie can all be produced in a new, innovative  presentation with the ingredients displayed as separate, yet ready to mix.

  1. Gluten-free

Gluten-free is not new, and has been in play for some years. However gluten-free foods have notoriously been the underdog when it comes to flavor. This is now changing as alternatives to wheat flour have been refined. Consumers are experiencing many health benefits through reducing gluten intake. Whereas before, a gluten-free diet was employed for consumers with specific conditions, more and more consumers will now adopt gluten-free products as a staple of their diet. An example is Capitol Cider on Capitol Hill, which offers an entirely gluten-free kitchen and bar. Gluten-free flour mixes have become available in mainstream grocery stores.

Moving forward in the gluten-free industry, buckwheat, teff, sorghum and other flours are readily available and add deeper and expanded flavors. Broader options have become easily available for gluten-free grains., such as the newly popular ancient grain, freekeh.. Recipes will add nutrition and flavor by removing white flour for alternate gluten-free grains.

  1. Global Food

As the world interconnects, more new ethnic food becomes available. Previously, the U.S. market has taken time to react to global food trends.This, however, has changed over the past few years, mainly as a result of enhanced travel and travelling TV food shows.

Although international flavors are by no means new, they will increasingly make appearances in restaurants as new concepts develop.  Peruvian, Indian, Persian and Cambodian cuisines will all become more mainstream over the next five years as the unique seasonings and spices not only jazz up a dish, but offer a range of health benefits.

  1. Vegan 

Vegan food is simply animal-free food – and includes zero tolerance for animal bi-products. This means that only food that comes from the ground–vegetables, fruits, grains and plants, is acceptable to eat.

Veganism is increasingly being considered as a wellness diet. Many high-profile people identify themselves as vegans: Bill Clinton, Steve Wynn, John Mackey (Wholefoods CEO), and even Mike Tyson, all mainly for health reasons.

While, only 1 percent of the U.S. population is vegan, the cuisine is appealing to more and more people as a meal option as opposed to dietary culture. This has in turn rescued certain ingredients from obscurity.  Until recently, few people had even heard of kale and quinoa. Now, they are practically staples for healthy diners, and we can expect to see freekah and teff become the new quinoa. 2014’s vegetable of choice will apparently be cauliflower (imagine!). Yes, this plain vegetable will be available in a variety of shapes and colors and will most likely take the place of the brussels sprout!

There are already a few vegan restaurant chains on the West Coast: Veggie Grill and Native Foods, along with a growing number of one-off independents. Although veganism remains in its infancy , it will see significant growth over the coming years..

  1. New Superfoods.

Historically, kale, pomegranate, chia and quinoa have taken center stage for superfoods. In 2014, we predict the new super grains to be freekah and teff, along with the super-vegetable kohlrabi . Also, this year’s hot vegetable will be the humble cauliflower. This old basic will take the form of colorful cauliflowers and they will be transformed in unexpected formats such as laced within mashed potatoes or simply roasted with balsamic glaze and butter.

  1. Sugar is Poison!

Well, not quite – but certainly it’s the new food devil.

Several consumer reports this past year highlighted Americans’ 24/7 snacking habits. Consumers are now looking for healthy snacks with less junk. Supermarkets are showcasing snack options loaded with health benefits. Raw snacks are available in supermarkets and Kroger recently released its Simple Truth product range. We will see higher-sugar, higher-fat snacks at the checkout replaced with better-for-you on-the-go offerings. This approach will also better address the FDA’s new trans-fat ban in the U.S., a ban that will likely spread to other countries over the coming years.

In this area, sugar will be replaced by natural sweeteners such as Truvia and Agave.

Indeed, diet companies are generally showing unprecedented growth, and there will be a growing trend towards pre-made fresh meals that have been calorie counted and customized to the dieting consumer’s tastes and dietary needs. In all areas, sugar will simply be killed off!

The ‘healthy eating’ trend is predicted to be one of the most prolific over the next five years as consumers make a major shift in how and what they eat, along with understanding the health benefits of more nutritious and less fatty and sugary foods.

  1. Aquaponics: Fish farming, the cultivation of fish in an indoor or controlled environment, has become increasingly more modernized and will continue to do so. Across U.S., the trend has been to ‘Food DIY (Do It Yourself)’ with increasing thoughts that our food system is vulnerable to disruption and that DIY is best and most trustworthy. People are learning ancient farming methods and combining their knowledge with a modern twist. Using tools and existing techniques from hydroponics and aquaculture, Aquaponics is essentially a dual system where fish and vegetables are grown together in symbiosis. In a closed environment, the plants live off the fish waste, and the fish live in water purified by the plants. Fish are raised in tanks and the water becomes dirtied with nitrates, algae, and organic ammonia. This waste water is then pumped into plants, which convert the contaminants into nitrate nutrients while adding oxygen. This clean and reoxygenated water is recirculated back to the fish. Going forward, we will see considerable innovation and species, with a mounting proliferation of homegrown fish on our dinner tables.
  1. Foods to watch out for:

We have mentioned a few foods to watch out for already; including freekah, teff and kohlrabi, in addition plant-based proteins such as Ancient grains and sprouted grainswill all be available in different guises.

Equally, better and less processed food, plus more natural products will continue to dominate the shelves and restaurants. The volume shift may even deflate prices!

  1. Events change how we eat

At the beginning of this report, we discussed the changing role of women in society. In the West, we have seen this since the 1950s and even before. Such change, however, was not as much evident in the Middle East and other developing parts of the world. There will be a clear shift in the role of women across the developing planet, and this will change how and what many cultures eat. How this manifests over time? The rest of the world’ stores and restaurants will most likely resemble the food markets of the West. And yet the family unit has greater strength in these parts of the world, so there are possibilities that they will develop differently and so it is premature to make predictions. Nonetheless, humanity has a tendency to live and learn – so perhaps a positive polarization in eating habits will occur. Whatever happens, one thing is clear: change is coming and this time it looks big!

Summary: The Food and Restaurant Forecast 

As we reflect on 2013, we cannot help but wonder about the future.

At The Next Idea, we believe considerable good will be generated by history. Moreover, this good will be driven by the people who were affected most. Globalization is changing our world faster than we know it. Facebook may have changed the world, but new technologies will eventually challenge its presently enviable position. Yet despite the fascinating, ever-evolving changes in how and what we eat, two things that never change are our need to eat and that social behavior is a human instinct. And so,one final absolutely certain prediction: the humble restaurant will survive another year.

Written by: Robert Ancill, CEO and Chairman of The Next Idea [International] LLC

About the Author: Robert Ancill is founding partner and owner of The Next Idea Group. He is considered one of the most authoritative voices on international restaurant and food brands, and has been responsible for launching and developing many new brands in emerging and frontier markets.


The Next Idea (TNI) is a leading international restaurant and leisure consulting group, possessing exclusive international coverage. The group is based in Los Angeles, with offices in the Dubai and Trivandrum (India). TNI has projects across the world, specializing in concept creation and development – everything from strategy, brand and product development, to design, execution and communication.

The TNI team has consulted with some of the world’s most eminent chefs and upscale restaurant groups, in addition to working with clients in: entertainment, casual dining, fast casual dining, resorts, theme parks and travel. In each project, we have been involved in all areas of the business, and have delivered programs and plans that have targeted the elevation of concept positioning, product and menu, operating standards, infrastructure, and overall quality.
Presently, The Next Idea has concept development projects in: USA, Dubai and Abu Dhabi (UAE), Nigeria, China, Qatar, Mexico, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UK, Bangladesh, and India.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *