Predicting the Future of Hospitality

When I started with Nightclub & Bar in April, I came from an associate editor position with four hotel trade magazines. I was a bit concerned with taking the leap into the vast world of nightclubs, bars, lounges and restaurants — and seemingly everywhere in between — but I was comforted by the realization that my background of hotel publications could pretty easily extend to this new world. After all, it’s all hospitality.

And yesterday, this came full circle as I sat in on San Francisco-based Andrew Freeman & Co.’s trends conference call presentation. The hospitality and restaurant consulting firm creates a list of its predictions for the upcoming year for the hospitality market, especially hotels and restaurants.

In my previous editor position, Freeman’s trends predictions were among my favorite things to write about. I referenced them in blogs, created top 10 lists based on the firm’s outlook and pretty much plugged it into my work wherever possible. One might have thought I had a special connection with the company. I have no such “in” — I simply think the ideas this firm comes up with based on the predicted trends are creative and accurate, and if the ideas aren’t implemented that year, they probably should have been.

You can read the full list of predicted trends from the 2010 Trend Think Tank here, but to save you time, I pulled out 10 that are really applicable to nightclubs, bars, lounges and restaurants looking to increase sales and profits:

—Spice is Nice. Cocktails with chili are sweeping the nation, from high-end mixology venues to the bar around the corner, Freeman said. Examples: Cajun-spiced rims or habanero-infused vodka.
—Garden Variety. Beer gardens are sprouting up all over the place, offering good food and drinks under the open sky.
—Stay Happy Longer. Extend your happy hours to keep people there longer and earn a loyal following, Freeman suggested. Or, offer a second late-night shift of hours of happiness.
—Smaller is Better. Small plates are hot, as are shared portions. This allows guests to try more on your menu for a smaller price. Freeman said guest checks generally don’t drop, but people are able to test out a couple of options instead of just one.
—Farm to Table. Already a popular trend, restaurants and farms will continue to partner up in 2010, with many restaurants developing their own gardens to get fresh produce on the table. And that extends to the bar, with fresh ingredients in drinks becoming all the rage, from homegrown mint to handpicked limes.
—Secret Society. We’ve touched on this (LINK) in previous articles in Nightclub & Bar, but it seems secrecy will reign supreme in 2010: “Everyone wants to feel special and in the know,” according to one of the presentation slides. “Secret menus, secret amenities and secret passwords. Use word of mouth, Facebook and Twitter to promote it. Everyone wants to be in on the secret.”
—Be True. Research shows loyalty jumps 19 percent during a recession. Once they’re on your side, they’ll stay, Freeman said.
—Select a Segment. Finding a niche is crucial to success, according to Freeman. He suggested the “three Gs:” gay, gray and green. Members of the LGBT community and those in their 50s and beyond sometimes have more discretionary income, he said, so attract them and gain their loyalty. Or, try your hand at capturing those consumers looking for eco-friendly dining.
—Extend the Day. “If you’re paying rent and you have an empty seat, open it up to something else,” Freeman said, suggesting early and late happy hours, servicing more day parts and special event rentals. “Every time you see an empty space is an opportunity.”
—Perfect Pairing. Partner with a related company to cross-promote to new markets and build your database. “Think outside the box as you’re building out your marketing plan,” he said, offering up ideas like pairing with spirits companies, convention and visitors bureaus or local charities.

And finally, here are the top drink trends Freeman’s firm is predicting for 2010. Will they be hits or misses? You decide.

1. Iced tea is the new water
2. Retro sodas
3. Red, white or orange – natural wines
4. Hard ciders and cask aged beers
5. Dessert drinks and spiked shakes
6. Wine on tap
7. Beer cocktails
8. Flower power: rosewater, crème de violette and hibiscus syrup
9. Foam art and branded drinks on cocktails and coffee
10. Bitter cocoa and coffee tinctures in cocktails

Whether these trends hit in 2010 is uncertain, but you’ll never know their success unless you try. Best of luck to everyone in 2010, in all sectors of the hospitality industry!


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