Top hospitality trends for 2018


We’ve got the low-down on the major trends set to shape the NZ hospitality scene in 2018…

1. Insta food

From unicorn lattes to freak shakes, doughnut coffee cups to larger-than-life cream buns, it seems there’s a new instagrammable food craze every other week. The biggest, the most, the weirdest, or the brightest mash-up combos of food and drinks, the possibilities are endless. Master the right combination of wow-factor and taste, even the most unassuming venue in an unknown town can find viral success and global Insta fame.

There’s no denying that Instagram is influencing the food and beverage scene. Savvy operators are purposely creating menu items for their Insta-worthiness. The advent of dedicated Nutella bars and cookie dough cafes are a direct by-product of the Insta food machine, and it doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.

The Insta food craze is here to stay, but what exactly the next sushi doughnut will be, only time will tell.

2. Leveraging technology

From online ordering, to contactless payments, to app-based rewards programs, technology is increasingly permeating every facet of the hospitality industry. That’s before we even mention drone deliveries!

Thanks to the likes of YQ, it’s no longer just the Domino’s of the world accepting online orders; even your local hole-in-the-wall coffee shop now generally has online ordering facilities. In a world where consumers increasingly expect to have everything at the swipe of their smartphone, it’s no longer enough for businesses to have just a website and social media accounts.

3. Delivery

Walk into a takeaway shop on a Saturday night and it’s not customers sitting around waiting for their food, it’s a stream of helmet-wielding delivery drivers waiting to collect orders. Third-party home delivery services including Menulog, delivereasy and co. saw a huge surge in 2017, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down.

While third-party home delivery greatly broadens your potential customer base and adds an additional revenue stream, there are other factors to consider; to some extent, it reduces your ability to control quality and service standards, up-sell, or form the personal connections (loyalty) that happens more organically when customers dine in-house.

4. Ethical practice a priority

Conscious consumerism continues to creep to the forefront of the hospitality industry, as businesses embrace their social responsibility and respond to consumer demand for better business practice. Where bio-friendly packaging made way for reusable cups last year, 2018 will see a conscious effort to reduce food waste by incorporating the lesser used parts of food, such as roots and stems, into menu items. An increase in the amount of paddock-to-plate and dock-to-dish services (like Al Brown’s new Freshcatch) will reduce the middle-man and eliminate unnecessary transport.

5. Superfoods

Another year, another superfood craze. While 2017 was the year of turmeric, 2018 promises to take superfoods to the next level. Everything from insect protein powders to edible clays and hemp products are touted to be the next big thing.

Fermentation – with its ability to make food easier to digest - is another trend likely to stick around in 2018. From kefir to kimchi to kombucha, it’s time to get familiar with fermented foods.

As more people make an effort to reduce their meat consumption, plant-based proteins are seeing a surge in popularity. Plant proteins are no longer just for vegans and vegetarians. Better food technology has made plant-based burgers and nut ‘mylks’ even more appealing, even to meat and dairy eaters.

6. Craft spirits

With the rise of craft beer, so too comes the advent of craft spirits. From gin to whisky, vodka to rum, craft distilleries are on the increase globally, and NZ is following suit. Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to their spirits. They want to know what botanicals are in their gin and what type of still was used to make their whisky. Fully appreciating a good drink these days goes beyond just the taste; customers want to know the drink more intimately to complete the experience.

7. Coffee

For a while it seemed like wherever there was a new café, there was a new micro coffee roastery to go with it. But what’s old is new again, as cafes are increasingly moving back to the big coffee houses to ensure quality and supply. However, they’re not exactly being overt about it. As cafes move back to the big coffee houses, they’re not bringing the branding along with them. More and more cafes are moving away from being a mainstream coffee chain branded café and sticking with their own branding. They’re opting for unmarked coffee and doing their own private labelling. It’s a best-of-both-worlds scenario, where you get the appearance of specialty coffee, with the supply chain and quality control benefits of large roasters.

Additionally, more cafes are recognising the advantages of better coffee equipment. Where once a start-up might opt for whatever would get the job done, they’re now investing in barista-recognised machines. Cafes are turning to electronic grinders and puck presses in a bid to improve quality, consistency, and time management.

Alternate coffee beverages continue to be a growth market. Insiders tell us that even large QSR operators are looking to make cold brew a regular fixture on menus from summer 2018, proving that alternate beverages are here for the long haul.

8. Immigration

New Zealand welcomed a record 71,900 migrants this year, according to Statistics New Zealand. Of the 43,000+ work visas issued, over 6,000 (nearly 15%) were in the hospitality sector. We can expect this multicultural diversity will continue to have an impact on the NZ food scene. Some industry insiders are tipping that Japanese-inspired bar food will be big in 2018.