Retail Foodservice

What Restaurant Chefs Are Saying about 2018 Food Trends

Just as retail forecasters have released their predictions for the nation’s collective palate in 2018, those in the restaurant industry offer their two cents on the culinary year ahead. More than 700 professional chefs who are members of the American Culinary Federation weighed in on upcoming food and beverage trends in restaurants through a recent survey sponsored by the National Restaurant Association.

So what will be showing up on restaurant menus soon, if not already? According to the NRA’s recently-released “What’s Hot List”, trends worth noting play off the ongoing interest in traditions with a twist, along with emerging ethnic dishes and farm-to-table, transparently touted items.

New cuts of meat, such as Vegas strip steak, oyster steak and shoulder tender top the list of top 10 food trend and reflect the traditions with a twist macro trend. Other examples include house-made condiments, doughnuts with non-traditional filings, vegetable carb substitutes, like cauliflower rice and zucchini spaghetti, and Thai rolled ice cream.

Interest in ethnic foods has not abated, evident in emerging or soon-to-be emerging fare like ethnic-inspired breakfast items, ethnic spices like harissa, peri peri and shichimi, Peruvian cuisine, ethnic condiments, street food-inspired dishes and Thai rolled ice cream. As for the whole locally-sourced farm-to-table and traceability movement, the chefs polled for the survey pointed to sustainable seafood, house-made accompanies like condiments and pickles, and heritage-breed meats.

Rounding out the “What’s Hot List” of Top 20 restaurant menu items worth watching or adding to the menu in 2018

Researchers also asked chefs for their thoughts on top concept trends, something that foodservice operators at retail may want to keep in mind as they design or update their foodservice spaces and menus in the coming year. Similar to ingredients, interest in hyper-local is high, leading the list, with concepts like restaurant gardens, onsite beer brewing and house made items, features which can be executed at grocery, too.

Other noteworthy happenings in concept trends with applications in thefoodservice area of grocery include chef-driven fast casual settings, veggie-centric cuisine, natural ingredients/clean menus and locally sourced meat and seafood.

According to Hudson Riehle, SVP of research at NRA, chefs’ opinions are driven by their customers, akin to grocer operators’ priorities.  “Guests are implementing these trends in their own lifestyles and want to see them reflected on restaurant menus. In response, chefs are creating more items in-house and turning to global flavors,” Riehle remarks.


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