President’s Column: Finding Real Solutions

President’s Column: Finding Real Solutions

By Anthony Anton

This time every year I look forward to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot culinary forecast. It’s based on a survey of 1,300 professional chefs – all members of the American Culinary Federation – and it gives us a first-hand perspective on the hot trends shaping our industry.

New this year is a special emphasis on food concepts, which are now ranked separately from food trends. These are the ideas that are driving our industry, and this year’s top concepts are right in line with who we are as an industry and as an Association.

The Washington Hospitality Association celebrates the great local experiences our members offer to their guests, and we’re focused on finding solutions that strengthen our local communities and help our member businesses and their employees succeed.

It’s heartening that as we are launching our new brand, the national trends back up who we are in hospitality.

Virtually all of the top food concepts, from hyper-local food sourcing and natural ingredient/clean menus to environmental sustainability and locally-sourced produce, are all really about how we make our communities stronger. They underscore how we, as an industry, help create solutions. These concepts also reflect our industry’s understanding that we only have strong businesses when we have strong communities.

Here’s what I mean by this. We all share a desire to protect our environment, a desire that is felt particularly strongly by younger generation. If you look at the top concept trends, you’ll see that six out of ten are directly related to how our industry is striving for a better environment. Local sourcing, for example, reduces shipping costs and reduces our industry’s carbon footprint. This also helps support farms here in Washington.

The interest in natural ingredients also moves us away from the use of chemicals and dyes in our food system. And food waste reduction is ties into environmental sustainability, which itself is a leading trend.

But our industry isn’t limiting itself to finding solutions that supports the natural environment. As a society we need to eat healthier. More and more people are relying on outsourced meal preparations, and as an industry, we are also focusing on offering choices that make healthier eating easier and more affordable.

This continued focus reflects how, as an industry, we constantly innovate as we strive to improve and meet the changing needs of our customers. We don’t need to wait for regulators to tell us how to get better. We’re striving on our own to improve.

This is who we are as businesses and who we are as an Association.  So when your neighbors see our logo on your window and ask you about the Washington Hospitality Association, we hope you’ll tell them that this is an Association you’re proud to be a member of because it is focused on solutions that strengthen your community, your business and your workforce.

TOP 10 CONCEPT TRENDS

1   Hyper-local sourcing

2   Chef-driven fast-casual concepts

3   Natural ingredients/clean menus

4   Environmental sustainability

5   Locally sourced produce

6   Locally sourced meat and seafood

7   Food waste reduction

8   Meal kits

9   Simplicity/back to basics

10 Nutrition

(Source: Washington Hospitality Magazine, February 2017)