Chef James Rigato says he does all he can to warn patrons what to expect at his award-winning Mabel Gray, located in Detroit-area Hazel Park.
The message? Nothing here is monotonous.
“A handwritten menu, the grandma china, and the location, should be enough deterrent for anybody who doesn’t like change,” said the former “Top Chef” contestant and James Beard finalist of his second restaurant – which earned the title 2017 Restaurant of the Year from the Detroit Free Press.
He’s among a new generation of culinary artists contributing to Detroit’s flourishing food scene. And one of many trailblazers that Libbey listened to and learned from to identify its 2018 Professional Insights – the four major drivers shaping foodservice trends across America. Each one, paired with Libbey tableware solutions to help bring them to life.
“For our 2018 Insights, we wanted to celebrate what’s going on in Detroit and show how it’s representative of trends across the country,” said Susan Dountas, senior director of foodservice marketing for Libbey Inc. “We’re based in Toledo, Ohio – in the heart of the Rust Belt – and know firsthand the power of the American ingenuity and Midwestern grit that these entrepreneurs are fueling their thriving businesses with.”
Whether breaking the rules entirely, or reinventing tradition in spectacular fashion, each of this year’s Libbey Professional Insights center around stepping beyond expectations and being a true original.
Insight 1: Modern Heritage: Enriching experiences keep guests coming back
According to Harris Group, 72% of Millennials would rather choose an experience over a material item. Using food and drink to connect guests to influences – whether from around the world, across the street or down memory lane – can create a richer experience that deepens their loyalty and raises the chance of return visits.
Rigato says it’s all about finding a balance between comfortable and adventurous.
“Prime rib, grandma’s food, PB&J, the good old cheeseburger. Those are anchor foods. They’re what we all love, they’re never going to go out of style,” he said. “I think when I have my anchor foods, I can branch out and I try to do something on-trend or that I saw in some wild restaurant I ate at in Copenhagen. I can jump out into outer space knowing that I’m tethered.”
The right tableware helps complement the nature, cultural connections and history of culinary experiences. Eclectic, expressive products add authenticity and depth, and a blend of the familiar and bold gives guests the best of both worlds.
Insight 2: Signature Delights: Stand apart with distinctive presentations
Guests will go out of their way to visit hotels, restaurants and bars that offer truly unique drinks and dishes. Draw them in with something they can’t find anywhere else.
Take pioneering Detroit mixologist Will Lee, beverage director at Grey Ghost Detroit – among the best-known in the city and a 2016 Bartender of the Year finalist. He has the mind of a wildly ambitious entrepreneur, but there’s one thing he refuses to do: Encores. In the drive to continually be original and innovative, he says he has no time for repeats.
“I try not to do things that other people are doing, and try to never do things more than once,” he said. “If I take a drink off this menu, it’s not coming back. With every bar that I open, and every pop-up that I do, I am going to try something different.”
Combining products in original ways can help bring out the unique character of a venue and leave a lasting impression on guests. So can enticing them through all the senses, including the tactile experience. In 2018, more people are open to trying food and drink with unusual textures, which will play an increasing role in creating memorable experiences, according to Mintel’s 2018 Global Food & Drink Trends.
Insight 3: Guests’ Rules: Serve it their way with a flexible tabletop
Guests are looking for more flexibility on when, where and how they dine. In fact, a Technomic report revealed 38% of people are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers greater customization.
Consider letting guests customize their own samplers, serving family-style or providing a “build your own” experience that lets guests play a role in their meal’s prep. Expanding the left side of your menu to emphasize veggies, appetizers and sides as an alternative to heavy entrees and to encourage sharing is another option for introducing more flexibility into guests’ busy lives.
A selection of patterns with multiple sizes and shapes can help serve the unlimited possibilities that guests desire, and thinking beyond the traditional tabletop can also fill the house for more hours throughout the day.
Insight 4: Healthy Indulgence: Satisfy cravings, guilt-free
Today’s guests seek balance in their lives – from work-life to diet. It’s all about serving their healthy habits to make way for guilt-free indulgences.
Red Dunn Kitchen Executive Chef Jay Gundy says he’s noticed the change in appetite from his patrons.
“There’s always going to be that person who comes in, they’ve had a couple of beers and want something deep fried. But it’s impressive how many people are trying to be vegan or vegetarian, at least a couple of days a week,” he said.
For him, the best way to cater to these mixed desires is a combination of providing a menu filled with fresh options, while also making more indulgent choices as healthy as possible.
“For the most part, everything on my menu is healthier. It’s all done from scratch. Good ingredients. That’s it, that’s the way to do it,” he said. “Even my burger is made with the best ingredients, so it’s going to be a healthier option compared to getting some fast food.”
Creating veggie alternatives for the dishes guests love, or letting them simply drink their daily dose of vitamins, fruits and veggies through smoothies and mocktails, are great options to cater to more health-conscious guests. Plus, the right tableware – especially clean, minimalist designs – can help show off the vibrant colors of fresh ingredients.
In a Sea of “Trends,” Libbey Professional Insights Aims to Simplify
There’s a never-ending onslaught of foodservice trend information. Dountas says the purpose of Libbey Professional Insights is to continually analyze and curate this data, separate fact from opinion and pair it with integrated tabletop solutions that maximize operators’ success.
“Everyone and their mother has an opinion on today’s foodservice trends, which can make it time consuming for operators to extract what’s useful,” she said. “Our aim is to simplify their lives, distill only the most relevant trends, and connect them to solutions that elevate the guest experience and profitability.”
To explore more ways that Libbey’s fresh tabletop solutions help you turn today’s trends into amazing guest experiences and big profits, view the new Insights 2018 brochure or visit foodservice.libbey.com.