The Top 7 Restaurant Trends for 2019

By Caroline Cox | 4 min read

Most of us have heard some version of the quote, “a classic never goes out of style.” And while that may ring true in many industries, the restaurant business isn’t one of them. To stay in the game, you have to be open to adapting, evolving, and staying on top of trends.

But how do you know which ones are worth adopting and which will soon fall by the wayside? (Especially when new trends continue to pop up at break-neck speed.) Unfortunately, there’s no crystal ball to predict which out-there ingredients will become menu mainstays. However, by keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s emerging and attracting customers, you can better determine which ones might work for you.

From CBD-infused dishes to the rise of meat alternatives, we’ve compiled seven stand-out trends that are predicted to take over the industry in 2019.

gather - restaurant trends 2019

More mindfulness about plastic use

Many declared the widespread straw ban the biggest restaurant trend of 2018. This year is poised to bring about a similar change. Restaurants from independent outposts to bigger brands like Shake Shack have promised to eliminate straws in 2019.

But it’s not just straws. Many restaurants have announced initiatives to begin phasing out plastic cutlery, styrofoam containers and more. Younger generations, in particular, have been vocal about their desire to only patronize businesses that appear to mirror their values. And sustainability is chief among them. What was once labeled a trend has grown into a veritable industry shift toward less single-use, disposable items and more toward eco-friendly offerings in restaurants.

More plant-based meat options

Over the past few years, the plant-based meat industry has been booming. Companies are creating new meat alternatives so comparable to the real thing that they’re cropping up in a record number of restaurants and supermarkets.

There were once only a handful of plant-based meat offerings from which to choose. But now, brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have broken the mold. They’re getting their products on a growing number of restaurant menus across the country. (You can even find meat-free burgers at fast-food chains like Burger King and White Castle.)

But it’s not just burgers that have been revamped. The overall trend of vegetarian and vegan items extends to things like dairy-free yogurt, desserts, and milk as well.

gather - restaurant trends 2019

More Instagram-worthy presentations

At this point, Instagram’s influence on the restaurant industry cannot be denied. Thus, visually appealing dishes and drinks are almost guaranteed to be snapped, shared, and seen more than the average plate. This exposes your business to an audience that could potentially become a new customer. That’s probably why so many restaurants have started catching on.

And the emphasis on presentation has stretched beyond white-tablecloth establishments. Cocktail bars are becoming more inventive with their garnishes. Adding everything from colorful flowers to fresh herbs and flaming fruit to their rims instantly gives drinks a visually appealing edge.

Some argue that the visual emphasis can mean that quality or flavor takes a back seat. But those who do it well know that the key to keeping customers around after the initial buzz recedes is through a menu that can stand on its own, regardless of the photo filter.

More offsite dining

More people continue to opt for grocery delivery services over hitting up the stores themselves. Because of this, the trend of off-premise dining doesn’t appear to be going anywhere in 2019. That means more companies are entering the space once dominated by the likes of GrubHub, Seamless, and Uber Eats.

Often, the ones who win out are those with incentives like free delivery, direct-mail coupon deals, or a new-customer intro offer that’s too good to pass up. And some restaurants with successful offsite dining programs are having to go as far as redesigning their interiors to accommodate more to-go orders or longer takeout lines.

More dishes with fermented ingredients

Diners today don’t just want to be mindful of what restaurants are throwing out. They’re also paying more attention to what goes into their dishes and drinks. Those ahead of the curve are already prioritizing things like local sourcing, superfoods, and beneficial herbs. One of the 2019’s standouts is likely to be fermented ingredients. This means the ingredients sit and steep until their sugars and carbohydrates become bacteria-boosting agents. It’s a process that’s been shown to support gut health, a current hot topic in the wellness community.

Fermented food iterations include kimchi, kombucha beverages, kefir, and pickles. Some eateries are taking the trend a step further by fermenting ingredients in-house or offering kombucha flavors on draft.

More pop-up eateries

The idea of hosting pop-up bars and restaurants is appealing to restaurant pros for many reasons. It gives chefs a chance to test out new menu items and helps gage patrons’ response to their brand. It’s also a method for attracting a new crowd in a way that’s creative and cost-effective.

Some of the most successful pop-ups of recent past have ties to a piece of pop culture that allows for an immersive experience. (Think: pop-ups mirroring Luke’s Diner from Gilmore Girls, the living room from Stranger Things, and the Double R Diner from Twin Peaks.) These pop-up spots can be a brand-new concept or something a brick-and-mortar outpost offers once or on a semi-regular basis. Some restaurants host visiting chefs. Others have a guest chef churn out dishes from a signature, pared-down menu once a week or monthly.

gather - restaurant trends 2019

More CBD menu sightings

From top chefs to top restaurant publications, the industry is buzzing about Cannabidiol. (More popularly known as CBD.) Its place in the spotlight is due in large part to the recent approval by the FDA, which allows CBD to be used to help treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy.

But though this ingredient comes from marijuana or hemp plants, regulated versions of CBD do not contain the psychoactive THC compound. Thus, CBD doesn’t cause a high. Rather, it’s been reported to induce a relaxing effect that can ease anxiety and even aid in sleep. Look for this trendy ingredient to be found in everything from lattes infused with CBD oil to ice-cream cakes with CBD frosting.


Now that you know about the big restaurant trends to have on your radar this year, request a live tour to see how our event management software can keep you ahead of the game.

Caroline Cox
Content Marketing Manager

Caroline Cox is Gather's Content Marketing Manager. She spends her time crafting blogs, thought leadership pieces, case studies, social media content and more, helping empower restaurants and other event venues to streamline their planning process and grow their events programs with success.

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