Tap technology is revolutionizing more than beer.
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6. Day for night. Consumers are less likely to eat according to a three-square-meals schedule; they nosh, skip meals, eat breakfast for dinner and vice versa. More restaurants are introducing innovative breakfast items—like chicken, turkey or steak breakfast sandwiches or super-spicy wraps with chipotle or Sriracha—often available all day. And while breakfast-and-lunch-only concepts are building a niche, other operators are promoting late-night breakfast menus, often in conjunction with 24-hour drive-thru service.
7. Every daypart is a snack daypart. As the snacking lifestyle goes mainstream, diners are paradoxically less interested in snack menus per se. Millennials see dollar and dollar-plus menus as the snack menu. LSRs are paying more attention to snack-size handhelds and car-friendly packaging; they’re also stepping up their game with grab-and-go or market-style offerings. As FSR customers move away from meat-and-potatoes meals, operators are catering to the snacking-and-sharing ethos with pairings, trios and flights from all parts of the menu—from soup trios to beer samplers to retro popsicle-flight desserts.
8. On tap. Tap technology is revolutionizing the beverage world: barrel-stored cold-brewed coffee that can be sent through repurposed beer taps, facilitating a new kind of coffee bar; soda-water taps that allow chefs to create their own fruity soft drinks; wine-on-tap tasting stations in high-end supermarkets; keg-wine bar concepts and retrofits; RFID-card-controlled self-serve beer-tap walls at high-tech pubs.
9. For fast service, bring your own device. The fast-casual service model has hit a hiccup: customers specifying every ingredient in their burrito or sandwich make for a slow-service line. Operators in every segment are finding new ways to use technology for faster, more accurate ordering. iPad orders placed tableside will be a point of differentiation for a few tech leaders, but we’ll primarily see a bring-your-own-device system of advance and inside-the-restaurant ordering—as well as more customer feedback and interactive conversations. In the back of the house, increased use of iPad communication will make new menu items easier to roll out.
10. Everything is political. Deliberately or inadvertently, restaurant operators got caught up in political controversy as never before in 2013. Some suffered customer backlash after expressing views related to Obamacare, "family values" or other topics, but others saw increased traffic. Consumers are increasingly aware that the personal is political—that their choices and those of the restaurants they patronize regarding food, treatment of employees and suppliers, sustainability and the environment have real consequences. Consciously or unconsciously, they will gravitate to concepts that share their worldview, and some restaurants will promote this cultural identification.