by Matt Alderton | February 01, 2019
Food is fuel. Without it, the human body ceases to function. Like cars need gasoline to drive and fires need oxygen to burn, people need nourishment in order to live, love and work. But food isn't just functional. Along with calories, it can be a source of creativity, community and comfort. In the year ahead, restaurants will nurture that perspective by embracing new formats and flavors that facilitate not only sustenance for the body, but also relationships and experiences for the soul, with obvious ramifications for meetings and events.

So predicts Gert Kopera, executive vice president of global restaurants at Hakkasan Group, a worldwide hospitality company whose portfolio includes restaurants and nightclubs across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Known as the "Chef Hunter" because he maintains meticulous records of the dishes he encounters during his culinary travels, he recently made his predictions for the top food-and-beverage trends of 2019.

"As we approach 2019, we're seeing an overall shift in the way people view dining and culinary experiences," says Kopera, who finds that consumers crave restaurants that are more accessible and communal than ever before. "In many ways, restaurants are now serving as the type of social hubs that retail stores used to be in the past."

Kopera is right, of course: Once upon a time, shopping was an experience. Department stores and shopping malls blossomed in the 19th and 20th centuries not only because consumers needed material goods, but also because they needed spaces in which to commune and socialize. Thanks to e-commerce, however, retail can no longer be counted on to play the role of social facilitator. Restaurants therefore have a unique opportunity to fill the void.

"More than ever, restaurants are social experiences," Kopera continues. "A restaurant should offer great food, of course, but also should create a vibe conducive to group gatherings and friendly conversation."

What's true of restaurants is also true of F&B at meetings and events. "As a professional in the hospitality industry, it's important to take these trends into consideration when working to curate memorable experiences for your guests," Kopera says. "My predictions indicate a larger shift in consumer attitudes and expectations."

To see the trends that are poised to shake up F&B next year, read the full story at