Niche is the word: experts reveal 2019 restaurant trends

With an ever-growing number of restaurants opening across Australia, it’s more important than ever
for those in the industry to keep on top of the trends. We spoke to three industry experts to find out
what will be hot when it comes to food, technology, tourism and more over the following year.

Catherine Slogrove, who is director of food and beverage marketing agency Papaya, believes
executing niche, high impact promotional concepts will be a major trend in 2019. “From Bistecca’s ‘no phones’ and impressive steak hunks to Josh Niland’s Fish Butchery featuring seafood sausages, venues are creating exciting experiences based on a core theme,” she says.

“Gone are the days of being everything to everyone, these days restaurants are choosing to do one niche thing and take itto the next level in a way that sets social media abuzz.”

She says restaurants are also becoming more socially and environmentally conscious, with many boycotting plastic straws and taking measures to reduce food waste. “Campaigns like ‘Parma for a Farmer’ saw the pub industry unite to support Australian farmers through the drought crisis, which was heartening to see,” she says.

With a high concentration of restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne, Slogrove believes the biggest challenge restaurants face is differentiating venues from their competitors and staying relevant.

Catherine Slogrove from Papaya PR. Image Letícia Almeida

“Everyone gravitates to the new and noteworthy, so how can you create innovative experiences to draw them back to your restaurant? It’s a cut-throat and challenging cycle,” she says. “Eat out at places that are drawing in the crowds to get inspiration, speak to different suppliers in the industry to form promotional partnerships and most importantly talk to the customers you have, and the customers you don’t, to find out what offer will resonate with them. Social media will tell you quicklywhat will resonate with your community and what won’t. Test your ideas through social as a quick litmus test for promotions.

When it comes to food, chefs will be endeavouring to create prettier, more colourful and impressive dishes for Instagram. “2018 saw epic burgers, fairy-floss French toast and ice-cream boas,” she says.

“I can’t wait to see what food porn 2019 brings us.” Slogrove believes social media will continue to rise in value as a marketing tool in the food and beverage space. “With 17 million people on Facebook in Australia and nine million on Instagram, we’ll see this as a growing mechanism to interact, market and communicate with clientele,” she says. “New features, such as the rise of ‘chatbots’, within these platforms will draw communication away from phone and email and towards Facebook and Instagram.”

Jeanine Bribosia, who is director of marketing, PR and content agency The Cru Media, says while
some restaurants will introduce more Instagram-friendly lighting, others will ban phones altogether.
“Social media is a blessing and a curse,” Bribosia says. “Everything from dishes to décor can be
copied by others, or stifle creativity, once it’s on social media.”

Jeanine Bribosia from The Cru (image supplied)

Bribosia also believes niche restaurants and those with smaller, more focused menus will continue to grow in 2019. Collaborations between chefs, with farmers and growers, winemakers and spirit producers will also be popular. “We also think there’ll be a spike in events and promotions that represent both good value and good fun, such as bottomless rosé lunches (NOMAD does it every
Saturday) or aperitivo hours,” she says. “Conversely, we’ve noticed that non-alcoholic drinks are starting to get equal billing on menus everywhere, with juice pairings offered alongside wine

Tourists will continue to be an important source of customers for restaurants around Australia, Bribosia believes. “People love to travel on their stomachs, whether that’s Australians heading interstate or international visitors setting foot on our shores,” she says. “Thanks to Tourism Australia’s Restaurant Australia campaign over the past few years, which we helped execute, the rest of the world is now aware of how good Australia’s food and wine is, that it’s world class, and that hasn’t always been the case.”

Bribosia says it’s important for restaurants to ensure they have a good website that reflects their
brand and tells their story, as well as a good booking system.

“Build and cultivate your database so that you can communicate directly with them,” she says. “And put a good social media strategy in place. We know from personal experience that if we’ve stalked a place for long enough on Instagram we’d go out of our way to visit it if we were in that location – locally or overseas. All those channels have to work together and have the same message. They don’t work in isolation.”

Chefs will be serving fewer dairy-based dishes in 2019, favouring nut milks and grain milks instead.
“There’s a real focus on provenance; not just where the steak comes from, but which farmer reared
the cow,” Bribosia says. “Australian ingredients, including what people refer to as native ingredients,
will continue to feature prominently thanks to chefs such as Jock Zonfrillo (at Restaurant Orana in
Adelaide) and Ben Shewry (at Attica in Melbourne). Micro-regionality will continue to be evident.
We won’t be content to have Italian or Middle-Eastern food, we’ll choose Sardinian or Egyptian
instead. And we’ll continue to see really interesting breads, as well as showpiece sandwiches (such
as the Mufuletta) made from them.”

Jo Moody, who is gastronomy manager at Food + Wine Victoria (creators of Melbourne Food & Wine Festival), also believes plant-based dining and alternative forms of protein will be big in 2019, led by Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat. “Fermentation will come into its own, influenced locally by guru Sharon Flynn from The Fermentary and globally by the recently released ‘Noma’s Guide to
Fermentation’,” she says. “Chefs are becoming more and more creative with vegetables as we see
less focus in menus on meat.”

Moody says more restaurants will move away from no booking policies in 2019, and ethical and
sustainable dining will continue to increase in popularity. “As fewer of us have cash in our wallets,
bill splitting apps will come into the mainstream,” she says. “And the rise of delivery services such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo will see restaurateurs focus on offering the best possible ‘in-house’
experience and hospitality.”