Part of what makes working in foodservice so exciting is the way things are always changing. Delivering on customers’ tastes and needs is a moving target, but having insights on where they’re likely headed makes planning more strategic and accurate. Here are three overarching themes and the micromovements within them that our chefs feel will be driving guests’ purchasing decisions in the coming year.
Hyper Regional Cuisines
While knowledge and exposure to global cuisines expands, regional arms of these cuisines will emerge on the menu. Chefs are incorporating the more accessible elements of these cuisines into their dishes.
Be on the lookout for:
- Flavors from Western Regions of Africa - Kola nuts, moringa, plantain, yam, scotch bonnet chilies, peanuts and sorghum2
- Mexican Regions - Oaxacan, Michoacán, Yucatan, Campeche and Baja regions of Mexico
- US Regions - Chefs are cooking based on their hometown roots and focusing on local ingredients and flavors of that area
- Portuguese Cuisine - The mix of unique cooking methods for both seafood and other proteins appeals to many western sensabilities.
Exotic Peppers: Both Spicy and Sweet
The desire for traditional warming spices and sweet heat is continuing to grow in both food and beverage applications. In foodservice, international hot sauces are an easy way to expose consumers to emerging international flavors and cuisines. Sriracha has reached mainstream appeal, and now others such as gochujang and piri piri are on the rise.
28% of consumers agree international varieties of condiments/dressings help them experiment with cuisines.3
Foods from multiple cultural backgrounds, including fusions of new and traditional as well as local and global will be hot this year.4 Consider the combination of local and global. Think about southern food paired with Indian flavors and spices. Global comfort foods will also have their moment. While comfort foods have always been prevalent in America, they’re going to take a global spin — and become more commonly accepted. Be on the lookout for:
- Dumplings and adobo — meatballs with global flare
- Sweet comfort foods such as rice pudding and donuts
- Lebanese street foods
You’ve likely seen evidence of how consumers are eating with more thought going into their choices and selecting foods for their specific health benefits. Across all regions of the US, consumers agree that the two most important attributes when shopping for food and beverages are “what’s good for my heart” and “what’s locally grown or produced.”7
Emerging Flavors and Ingredients
- Maca - This vegetable is native to Peru and boasts several functional benefits including boosting energy and immunity. It’s often an add-on to smoothies and other blended drinks.
- Cacao - Elevates mood and provides many health benefits including antioxidants, iron, calcium, and magnesium. Of course it’s found in desserts, but it’s appearing more in savory items and protein rubs.
- Heirloom/Ancient Grains - Ingredients like sorghum, barley, spelt, farro, and wheatberries are becoming more common and sought after by consumers. They make an excellent base for on-trend bowls as well as new breakfast offerings.
- Algae - Use of seaweed and blue algae is broadening and is now incorporated into salads, soups or stews.
- Nutrient-Dense Ingredients - Kohlrabi, mushrooms, chard and collards are drawing new attention, making their way into sides and even blended drinks.
- Non-dairy Milks - Beverages crafted from oats and macadamia are taking their place next to traditional soy and almond milks. They’re becoming more common at coffee shops, but are also used in baking, especially when meeting vegan requirements.
- CBD Infused Foods - The stigma around cannabis derivatives is on the decline and its touted benefits are on the rise. They can be found in oil formats, in candies as well as coffee drinks and teas.
- Functional Fuel - Whether consumers are looking for a protein boost, extra fiber or heart-health-promoting vitamins, people are intrigued by foods and beverages that can have a positive effect on specific health concerns.
Emerging Health Trends
Guests will be looking for choices that fit into categories like these:
Digestive health - Think of the rise of kombucha, kimchi and kefir.
- Live cultures
Eating for beauty and youth benefits - In addition to supplements, lean proteins and plenty of vegetables help improve collagen’s benefits. And the advantages of Omega-3-rich fishes are widely popular.
- Omega 3
An Enhanced Focus on Veggies
As more consumers reduce their meat consumption, vegetables are taking the lead as chefs are beginning to feature them front and center — not as a side or afterthought.4 About 83% of US Consumers are adding plant-based foods to their diets to improve overall health and nutrition.8
Many restaurants have been preparing cauliflower florets just like they would Buffalo wings. Even the Yard House, famous for beer and bar food, has added Buffalo Cauliflower to their menu.
Additionally, more focus is being placed on sourcing vegetables from local sources, and incorporating them into dishes at the height of their seasonality. Plus diners are willing to pay a premium when a local farm or supplier is called out.
Emerging Veggie Trends
Meat Preparation Techniques for Vegetables - Methods normally used for meats are being used on vegetables. Think jerky, brining, and tartare.9
Beet Tartare with Quick-Cured Egg
A twist on a traditional classic, this plant based dish highlights the natural sweetness of beets with an umami flavored egg yolk.
Pressure Caramelized Carrots with Zaatar Mayonnaise
Pressure caramelizing the carrots gives them a silky, luxurious texture enhanced by lemony zaatar mayonnaise. Crisp, bright gremolata and candied nuts give the dish a crunch.
Vegetables for Dessert
Chefs are pushing culinary boundaries and are experimenting with the natural sweetness of corn, carrots, fennel, squash, sweet potatoes and other vegetables.10
Food should be fun as well as memorable. When people part with their hard-earned money for a meal, they’re expecting to be wowed.
Consumers crave an experience when dining out. Operators with interactive, engaging atmospheres will drive even more Millennial traffic.11
Spyce in Boston uses robotics to prepare healthy, convenient bowls for guests as well as create a truly memorable experience.
Naturally Beautiful — and Delicious
The trend of natural enhancements drawn from edible flowers, micro greens, and micro vegetables is on the rise. Edible flowers are appearing on menus in teas, ice creams, and more.
Movie theatres and bowling alleys are making the shift towards upscale, on-trend menu offerings. Chains like Alamo Drafthouse and AMC Dine-In Theatre are setting the standard.
Adding a Nostalgic Twist to Comfort Foods
The dining experience is enhanced by bringing consumers of all generations back to their roots.
Upgraded Comfort Foods
Noble Fork Sustainable Diner serves a coconut chicken club sandwich, which evokes nostalgia of American comfort food with upgraded and sustainable ingredients.
Nostalgia for the 90s
It may not seem that long ago, but people are already remembering the 90s with rose colored glasses. Caesar salads, buttermilk ranch, and funfetti cake were big back then — and they’re back again.4
Having a glimpse of what guests are hungry for can go a long way in helping you make 2019 an amazing year for food. Here’s to a delicious — and profitable — year!
1 NRA, What's Hot Survey, 2018
2 Marlin Network, Flavor Atlas, 2018
3 Mintel, International Food Trends Report, 2018
4 Symrise, Flavor Trends, 2018
5 Datassential, 2018
6 Technomic, 2018
7 Hartman Group, Health & Wellness Report, 2017
8 Nielsen, 2017
9 Symrise, FLavor Trends, 2019
10 New York Times, Vegetables for Dessert, 2018
11Technomic, Restaurant Business Trends, 2018