Trendspotting: The Future of Foodservice

ipad restaurantNation’s Restaurant News recently published a special report,  2020 Vision, The Future of Foodservice, looking at what restaurant menus, design, consumers, and technology will look like when the next decade begins.

NRN Senior Food Editor Bret Thorn asked me and three other industry experts to speculate on The Future of Menus, what restaurant menus will look like in 2020.  In addition to what was included in the article, here are some of the thoughts I shared with him as the report was being compiled.


Video will become  more important than still photography. If  you doubt that it is possible for plate presentation to become more important than it is today, beware.  Someone will invent something less clunky than the QR code, and we will use it to allow diners to see their menu options in a video format in their browser, table-based tablet,  or through an app.

Food and Beverage

Private label food. We are going to go from farm-to-table to the table owning the farm.  Think “the herb garden in back of the restaurant” blown up throughout the menu.  People want to go out for food they can’t make at home. Meanwhile, with all the resources that are available to them, from reality television shows to esoteric grocery stores to high-end gadgets,  they are getting better at making food at home.  Pressure for restaurants to keep innovating is going to be intense.


You might remember a Dallas restaurant called “North/South,”   It had a “north “ side of the menu which was healthy, and a “south” side of the menu, which was not. That was maybe 15 year ago.  It failed — long story. We rolled our eyes. But many restaurant menus in 2020 will adopt that format.

For a long time, healthy items on menus provided a halo effect for people who ordered what they wanted.  In the last few years, diners began to actually order the healthy items we put on our menus.   Meals in 2020 will be more likely to be designated  healthy or indulgent by the person occupying each seat in the dining room.


The Green Restaurant Association has done us all a service by putting environmental responsibility in the spotlight and establishing widely recognized standards.  In 2020, that association will no longer be necessary.  Their approach will be near universal and the National Restaurant Association  will take over — supporting what will then be a mainstream way of doing business.   In fact, they have already issued its first sustainability report.  Trends like this move quickly.  Just ask the people who used to make fun of environmentalists who now have footnotes on their emails reminding us to “think twice before printing.”

What do you see for the future of menus in 2020?

photo credit: LexnGer via photopin cc