by Walter Rapetski

Lets take a look ahead at what trends we can expect to see in the restaurant industry.

We look at trends as a long-term development, not a fad, that brings a new element to an industry whether it be driven by consumers or created by companies. Some have already begun to emerge and are sure to increase in customer awareness and acceptance in 2016.

No more tipping? Several industry leaders from both chains and independents have begun to educate our shores with this practice, which is accepted overseas. There are many benefits to eliminating tipping in our hospitality industry for both business and consumer. Throughout Europe and Asia this practice has led hospitality to be a more respected profession. People working in all service sectors would be guaranteed a higher wage that is reflected in a higher menu price. Servers no longer have to worry about slow nights, and the great earnings disparity between front and back-of-house will disappear.

The benefit to the consumer will be not having to figure what to tip. The employers will be paying a higher wage so they can expect more professionalism from their staff.

Fast-casual concepts will continue to grow. As chains such as Chipotles and MoeshaveshownthatAmericansareenamored with the fast-casual concept, independent operators will being to adopt this format in much greater numbers.

There are plenty of reasons why this service format is stealing restaurant market share from other industry segments. This type of business typically has a much smaller footprint than traditional restaurants, can focus in on special niches and deliver a fresher product at an excellent price point without having to pay for front of the house service staff.

Locally, White Duck Taco is an excellent example of this business format (with excellent food!). All elements that will make consumers across many markets happy.

Gourmet condiments will continue to grow and become more mainstream. These are affordable luxuries that people are clamoring for all across America. At a minimal increase in cost people can experience a wide range of gourmet flavors delivered as a sauce, dressing, compote, relish or salsa.

There is so much to choose from locally. Tupelo Honey has an apple salsa and cherry pepper aioli on their Southern Taco Trio. Not to be outdone is Nine Mile, with their fire-roasted tomato mango chipotle salsa served over tortilla chips.

The Corner Kitchen will also give you many similar treats, such as their smoked tomato butter or tarragon orange marmalade. Many more local restaurants offer their guests an incredible culinary treat to the senses with such robust, flavorful toppings or sides.

When Wendys now offers a salad with pico de gallo, guacamole and a red jalapeno dressing, can truffle oil fries at Mc-Donalds be far behind?

Speaking of McDonalds, after launching breakfast all day, this will become more prevalent throughout the rest of the restaurant industry in 2016.

There are several reasons that will fuel this popular meal period to all day. First of all, Americans love their breakfast, so this is not a time sensitive meal. Sunday brunches have long proved this already. Americans now snack throughout the day more than ever as the lines of traditional meals become more blurred.

Companies will love the opportunity to serve more breakfast as breakfast food traditionally has some of the highest profit margins in food service, with the tradeoff being lower price points.

Many Asheville restaurants have already discovered the joy of all day breakfast, much to the delight of their patrons. A few who already indulge the all-breakfast are Twisted Crepe, Sunny Point Cafe, Biscuit Head and, of course, Early Girl Cafe.

Dietary exclusion meals are becoming more mainstream throughout all segments of the restaurant industry. Whether it is vegetarian, gluten-free, lactosefree, sugar-free or low sodium, people with dietary concerns will be catered to.

This market continues to grow at an exponential rate, and the majority of restaurant concepts can ill afford to ignore such a large constituency. Restaurants are going to have to choose how they can best reach out to any of these emerging markets with products and services that augment their current business without alienating their existing customer base.

There will also be some re-evaluation of the red meat industry given the research and results recently published by the World Health Organization. Whereas this does not spell the end for America being the great bastion of carnivores, many Americans will looks more judiciously at their red meat intake.

Our countrys insatiable love affair with bacon might become tempered ever so slightly with this news. From bacon doughnuts (thank you, Vortex) to bacon bourbon (thank you, The Marketplace), bacon has truly become an American pastime. Chefs will have to dust off the history books to learn how curing existing before nitrates were introduced.

Yes, move over farm to table, pyramid to plate is next. Bon appetit!

Walter Rapetski is a SCORE volunteer mentor and teacher at A-B Techs Culinary Arts and Hospitality Education Department and has owned restaurants and worked in the industry for years. To learn more, contact asheville.score.org. To learn more about starting a business and other critical small business skills, contact ashevillescore. org. SCORE which originally stood for Service Corps of Retired Executives is a nonprofit organization whose volunteers provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners.