af&co. Debuts 2018 Trends Report

San Francisco, CA – af&co. (formerly Andrew Freeman & Co.), one of the country’s leading boutique restaurant and hospitality consulting firms, is thrilled to debut this year’s trends report. Change is the New Black: Responding to Perpetual Change with Creativity, Optimism and Innovation is a preview of the hottest trends and predictions that will shape the hospitality industry in 2018. This comprehensive annual report identifies key influences in restaurants, hotels, hospitality marketing, food and beverage.

Now in its tenth edition, af&co.’s trends report has become an industry standard in anticipating market demand and consumer feedback. Compiled from extensive year-long research, the report is intended to serve as a guide to help operators prepare for the coming year.

The theme of the 2018 trends report is Change is the New Black because there’s one thing we can count on for next year, and it’s… nothing. Change is here to stay, and the top trends reflect the industry’s acceptance of this state of flux. Successful restaurants and hotels are using their creative resources to innovate faster than ever to keep up with national economic, political and social shifts as well as significant cultural changes in the way people dine, socialize and travel.

“Hold on tight, folks, because it’s time to dig in and embrace the craziness,” says Andrew Freeman, founder of af&co. “Restaurants and hotels have learned that they must constantly adapt to appeal to millennials and other growing target demographics due to the ever-shortening attention spans in the digital age. This year, we also saw them mobilize quickly to develop programs to give back to their local communities when natural disaster strikes. Social media makes getting the word out about change easier, too.”

Andrew will lead a trend webinar tomorrow, Thursday, November 16 at 2pm PST/5pm EST, to present the report in its entirety. Images are available upon request. Register for the webinar to learn more about:


2018 Food City of the Year

Chicken is back… and is growing in popularity

“Fine-casual” dining takes off

Israeli cuisine hits the scene

Everything is rainbow… thanks to Instagram

Creative ways to combat and utilize food waste

Vegetables go mainstream

Contemporary regional Mexican and Chinese cuisines are on the rise

Nostalgic food reappears (meatloaf, deviled eggs, wedge salads, etc.)

Millennials showcase their favorite childhood foods (think Cheetos, Pop Rocks, etc.)

Pizza makes an appearance everywhere

Jewish delis gain in popularity



Mocktails and non-alcoholic beverages are here to stay

Farm to shaker… garden-inspired cocktails

Bid farewell to the bottle… new and inventive ways to package wine

Affordable wine bars adjacent to high-end restaurants

Experimenting with flavors in cold brew coffee

Classic cocktails using mezcal



The proliferation of the six meal period day

Members-only restaurants, lounges and bars

The future of transactions in restaurants (fewer people, more kiosks)

Drones and robots handling delivery



Flexible and experiential logo design to adapt across channels

Semi-private spaces allow for privacy without cutting guests off from the action

Restaurants need to be camera-ready at all times and the importance of lighting



Robots for room service and expanding, healthier vending options

Well-being amenities

Micro hotels

Global breakfast options

Using technology (voice/facial recognition, mobile check-in, etc.)



Third-party entities make catering for restaurants easier

Apps that cater to event professionals

Showcasing local and seasonal produce at events



Food on the move and in the air… especially on social media

Experiential marketing takes over overtly promotional tactics

The micro-influencer movement

It’s all about the urgency… the importance of limited-time offers

Data mining, online booking and new players… the new way to foster loyalty and recognition


About af&co.: af&co. is an innovative restaurant and hospitality consulting firm headquartered in San Francisco with clients across the country. They have developed and launched concepts for more than 100 restaurants and hotels and provided ongoing marketing, public relations, and operations consulting for more than 200 others. af&co. has created unique culinary events of all sizes from intimate dinners to food and wine festivals drawing more than 10,000 people. They do whatever it takes to help their clients achieve their goals and focus on what they are passionate about: hotels, restaurants, food, wine, spirits and travel.

Source: af&co