A new year brings development, challenges and changes in all sectors, with the foodservice industry as no exception. Heading into 2023, restaurant operators are seeing the light at the end of a long pandemic-driven tunnel, though inflation, rising costs and labor challenges remain. The good news is, consumers are once again dining out with abandon, even during inflationary times. That’s because, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2023 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, they’re seeking the experience of it all, not just sustenance. And, when it comes to that sustenance, consumers are still seeking excitement from restaurants, chiefly in the form of global flavors and new twists on the classics. Here’s a look at the top industry and cuisine trends dominating the charts.
TOP FIVE INDUSTRY TRENDS
Experiences, local culture and community
Despite the booming popularity of off-premises restaurant meals and snacks in recent years, pent-up demand for in-restaurant experiences, which includes socialization, celebration, and culinary exploration, is strong, with 70 % of respondents noting customer desire to gather on-premises, according to the National Restaurant Association’s forecast, which was created based on a survey of more than 500 professional chefs in conjunction with research firm Technomic.
With inflation on the rise, ingredient costs are expected to remain high into next year, according to the National Restaurant Association, so restaurant operators are looking to streamline menus and create dishes with new ingredients to preserve value for guests. Additionally, value meals, particularly in the breakfast category, are expected to be a draw for customers.
Remote work has fundamentally changed the way consumers use restaurants and other foodservice operations, especially fast-casual ones and those offering takeout. As such, operators are experimenting with new and exciting “carriers” beyond sliced bread — from Indian parantha and roti to pastry buns and crepes – as well as flatbread sandwiches and healthier wraps for exciting eating on-the-go. Fried chicken sandwiches and chicken sandwiches 3.0 (those with spicy and sweet-heat fusion flavors) are also on the rise (listed as the 2 hot trend overall by the National Restaurant Association’s 2023 forecast). At breakfast, the report shows the growth of unique handhelds like French toast sticks and chicken and waffle sandwiches. There’s also a “cooling” of breakfast salad bowls from last year and a heating up of other types of breakfast bowls, such as those with pasta or rice as the base as well as those with veggies and tofu as the star.
Zero waste/sustainability/upcycled foods
The pandemic and proliferation of takeout food to new extremes exposed one major flaw—these takeout containers have to go somewhere. Whereas pre-pandemic operators had begun to make major in-roads on selecting biodegradable and compostable packaging, post-pandemic is showing a return to those waste management goals and decisions.
Listed as an emerging trend in the National Restaurant Association’s report, this category includes existing and emerging technologies in the equipment space, namely in the form of higher-level cooking and hot-holding pieces that can monitor volume, temperature, and time. And then, of course, there is the proliferation of robotic “arms” and other self- or more automated cooking equipment.
TOP 5 CUISINE TRENDS
This is the National Restaurant Association’s pick for the top hot cuisine trend for 2023, and one that encompasses Vietnamese, Singaporean, Filipino cuisines. In fact, Andrew Freeman & Co., a hospitality consulting firm, pointed to Filipino as the cuisine of the year for 2023 in its annual report.
A top 3 global trend for 2023 as listed on the National Restaurant Association’s forecast, look to Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican favorites as growing in popularity on menus around the country. Think: Cuban sandwiches and plantains.
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Also in the National Restaurant Association’s top 3 global trends on the 2023 forecast and one that includes dishes and flavors from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru. Listed as an emerging food was huacatay, a Peruvian black mint sauce often served with chicken or barbecue dishes.
Listed as the top 5 emerging trend on the report, this includes Croatian, Bulgarian and Turkish cuisines and flavors. Another emerging trend was raki, a Turkish alcohol made of twice-distilled grapes and anise.
Not falling into any specific cuisine, a multitude of condiments, spices, seasonings, and sauces from around the globe are on the rise, according to the National Restaurant Association. This includes variations of Sriracha, Ganjang (Korean soy sauce), smoky Mexican guajillo chili sauce and Tajin, a chile pepper, sea salt and lime seasoning that’s another Mexican staple.