With summer fast approaching, the hospitality industry is gearing up to offer new experiences. Enjoy the warmer weather and well-deserved vacation time by taking advantage of these hot new trends.
1. “ Fine-Casual” – the new Fast-Casual – Coined by NYC chef and Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer, the term “fine-casual” describes an upscale counter service featuring high quality ingredients, bold flavors, tasting menus and even wine bars. Fine-casual is chef-focused while being affordable, with shorter wait times than fine-dining or table service. Flower Child, the latest concept from Fox Restaurant Group, uses the tagline, “Healthy Food for a Happy Word” and serves scratch-made, healthy, soul-satisfying food at fast-casual prices. Serving self-proclaimed “Modern Organic Mexican Cuisine”, Tocaya Organica locally sources its produce and serves only organic meats and fish. Both Tocaya and Flower Child happily accommodate vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free preferences in a sophisticated, yet accessible setting. Souvla, in San Francisco, was inspired by the the casual souvlaki eateries found throughout Greece. Offering rotisserie meats and vegetables and Greek wines, Souvla takes it up a notch with candles on every table. Even in this elegant setting, Souvla’s CEO Charles Bililies estimates labor costs are 15% lower than a traditional restaurant, despite providing medical benefits, paid vacations and a 401K to his employees. Fine-casual establishments are able to keep costs to consumers down by operating in smaller spaces and hiring less staff. Considering the high-rent in markets like New York City, LA and San Francisco, paired with the minimum wage increases, it’s no wonder many fine dining establishments are closing their doors, making room for a host of new, fine-casual offerings.
2. A focus on health and well-being – Ever fantasized about a wheat beer while in Warrior Two pose? With free, post-class beer tastings, restaurants and breweries are finding that a yoga class, offered on-site, can inspire a more mindful consumer, as well as reach a new demographic. With catchy titles like “Detox/Retox Power Vinyasa”, Old Bust Head Brewing Co. in Warrenton, VA is one of many across the country capitalizing on this trend. Every Saturday at Shooters Waterfront in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, you can start the morning with a free yoga class and follow it up with bottomless mimosa-and-bloody mary brunch. The InterContinental Suites in Cleveland partners with the Cleveland Clinic Institute of Integrative Medicine to offer services like acupuncture, reiki and mind/body classes to promote it’s motto “Stay Well”. Other hotels offer vitamin C-infused showers, in-room fitness videos and dawn-simulation lighting to combat jet-lag. Relax, rejuvenate and improve your overall well-being by sampling one of these wellness-forward hospitality options.
3. Participation in securing and preparing your meal – While farm-to-fork and locally-sourced food has been on-trend for years, many places are letting you get in on the action. Several bed & breakfasts offer chef-led/guest participation cooking classes using “hyperlocal” food. Collect your breakfast eggs from chickens roaming the property, churn butter, milk cows for the cream in your coffee. Many of these farm B&B’s highlight free-range meat, butchered and cured on-site. At Cedar Crest Lodge in Pleasanton, Kansas, guests are encouraged to take home the produce they’ve helped forage. Korean BBQ’s and Hot Pot restaurants boast a different type of interactive experience. Here, you are invited to combine your own sauces and marinades, select cuts of meat and fish, veggies and noodles and then do the cooking yourself. A far cry from fondue in the communal pot, these restaurants let you customize your broths and choose whether to cook over a charcoal or gas grill. Personalize your pot with a sweet and sour Tom Yum, a mild bone broth or a fiery Szechuan peppercorn chili oil. For dessert, scoop your own ice cream and grill your own s’mores.
4. Poke Bowls – The Hawaiian-inspired raw fish bowls known as ‘Poke Bowls’ are saturating the fast-casual market as of late. Poke (pronounced “POH-keh”), in Hawaiian, means “to slice or cut”, and refers to chunks of raw, marinated fish, usually tuna. These sushi-grade, bite-sized pieces are then tossed over rice and topped with vegetables and sauces. Like sushi, poke pairs well with the creaminess of avocado, the crunch of a crispy onion or the heat of wasabi or red chili. Poké Bar, which opened in Southern California three years ago, now has 53 locations coast-to-coast, and has become one of the fastest-growing poke chains in the country. Also launched in 2015, Sweetfin, allows customers to watch their bowls being created using fish that is cut in-house daily by trained line chefs. Dakine Poke in Orlando, FL offers the Build Your Own Poke Bowl, allowing customers to choose their base, protein, toppings and sauce, including a selection of sides. Some poke joints offer seasonal fish and alternative bases such as quinoa, black or bamboo rice and wonton chips. For a low-carb spin, you might substitute zucchini noodles or kelp salad. Not a fish eater? Opt for tofu or cooked crab. Seasonings, sauces and vegetables offer endless customizable possibilities.
4. Giving Back – From partnering with local and global charities to sponsoring summer camps for at-risk youth, the following are just a few examples of how the hospitality industry is “growing good”. Dining out for a cause continues to be a great excuse for a eating well while giving back. A percentage, (anywhere from 10-100%), of what you spend on your meal helps with fundraising efforts. Beneficiaries can range from your child’s school PTA to a national or global organization. No Kid Hungry, which seeks to end childhood hunger in America, partners with 15,000 participating restaurants nationwide to help kids get the meals they need. Dining Out for Life raises funds for HIV/AIDS service organizations. Some restaurants, like the New England chain Ninety Nine, invite local organizations in the community to host their fundraisers on-site. They’ve helped raise money for the Dana-Farber Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs and Pine Street Inn, New England’s largest homeless shelter. Nationwide chains like The Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden and Panera Bread donate leftover food to local shelters and food banks, sponsor “Bakers-in-Training” workshops for underserved kids and donate furniture to Habitat for Humanity when their stores are remodeled. Chefs are taking a bigger role in raising awareness for food, hunger and agriculture causes by using cooking as a medium for change. “Iron Chef” winner Marc Forgione has made his restaurants available for events that raise money for Family Reach, which assists families dealing with cancer. Hot Bread Kitchen has partnered with Chef Christina Tosi, (founder of Momofuku Milk Bar), to create jobs and provide opportunities, connections and training in the food industry for foreign-born immigrants. B.Good restaurants “wants their food to be the roots that connect community and inspire good”. They engage the community by encouraging their customers to write grants, donate loyalty rewards and even volunteer on their island farm, Hannah Farm, which donates food and proceeds to low-income families in the Boston area. In collaboration with the Conners Family Foundation and Boston Public Health Commission, B.Good Restaurant helps run Camp Harbor View, where at-risk kids participate in planting and harvesting food from Hannah Farm, while learning about agriculture, nutrition and the importance of healthy eating.
5. Creative use of waste – According to a Food and Agriculture Organization-commissioned study, roughly one-third of the food produced in the world goes to waste, that’s nearly 250 pounds of food per person. Increasingly, customers want to better understand how their favorite restaurants and hotels are reducing food waste. At his New York pop-up and community movement wastED,Chef Dan Barber aims to create delicious, appetizing food from food that typically goes to waste, introducing items like “reject carrot mustard”, “off-grade sweet potatoes”, and “yesterday’s oatmeal”. The Greene King pubs in the UK have begun offering a range of different portion sizes tailored to lighter appetites, as well as different children’s menus based on age. Their various sites and pubs have been able to divert 80-96% of their waste from landfills. Certain hotels are employing pay-by-weight buffets to discourage over-serving. The ice cream shop Salt & Straw uses “rescued” ingredients like celery leaves, popcorn, baguette and whey in their imaginative flavors. While recycling and composting has been happening for years, only recently has food waste become a source of energy production. More and more, cooking oils are being used as biofuel, and dehydrators are being used to extract water and dry food by-products to be used as seasonings or misos.
6. Family-friendly resorts and dining – Look past the all-inclusives and cruises to create a more intimate and adventurous family experience. Restaurants are offering more creative play spaces for their youngest patrons, complete with board games, tents and even sing-alongs. The Frelard Pizza Company in Seattle, WA features art supplies and a chalkboard wall. Westbrae Biergarten in Berkeley, CA boasts a kids-only play area with sand and beach toys. A shaded, outdoor clubhouse offers educational toys to kids dining at the Elk Cafe in Brooklyn.
Hotels are catering to families by offering multi-room suites with bunk-beds, in-room tents and family-sized cabins. At the Summer Camp Oak Bluffs Hotel on Martha’s Vineyard, MA, families will feel like they are back at sleepaway camp, munching on classic snacks like Cracker Jacks and Dreamsicles from the Camp Canteen. The hotel features a game room with ping pong tables and board games, all within walking distance of the beaches, shopping and dining of historic Oak Bluffs. At the rustic Suttle Lodge and Boathouse in Sisters, Oregon, families can hike, paddleboard, kayak or canoe the mountain lakes of the Deschutes National Forest. At Family Adventure Camp in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, families learn to identify wildlife, understand surrounding pond and forest ecosystems, and participate in a backcountry hike and overnight stay in a rustic lodge only accessible by trail. These getaways and others like it offer families a place to gather, learn, play refresh and connect. Naturalist led tours and stargazing included.