Bacon, farm-to-table, food trucks, craft beers, anything artisan and eco, and everything tech were among the big trends affecting the restaurant industry in 2015.
The challenge is deciphering the trends from the fads. Many ideas start with a niche following, but turn viral as their quality and coolness overtake the masses.
As you look to 2016, you should expect the unexpected. Still, you have to be prepared for new culinary trends as well as cautionary tales related to logistics, wages, food safety and kitchen management.
Looking forward, here are predictions for trends in the food industry for the coming year:
- The Ongoing Tech Evolution: The list of new technological ideas to improve the customer experience grows as fast as the speed of the internet: Tablets at the table for placing orders; mobile online ordering and promotions to entice diners; smartphone payment services; automated computer and kiosk terminals that allow customers to order faster while personalizing their meal. Higher labor costs, speed of service and the surging force of Millennial preferences are driving technology to new highs.
- Beyond Kale, Sushi and Sriracha – Nothing new here, but all are trends on which to build new menu ideas. Celery root and parsnips are on tap to usurp kale. The sea-to-table movement has taken seaweed out of the sushi roll and into a slew of new dishes including soups, sauces and rice dishes. Chefs are having fun with post-Sriracha sweet and spicy sauces like jalapeno honey and other chili-infused honey toppings. And they are being used on waffles, salads and even pizzas. Also, smoky foods will be high on the lists of many top chefs throughout the country.
- No Means Yes – The trend toward fewer additives in foods is now a staple of how we eat. All-natural pepperoni, for instance, made without nitrates, nitrates or any other artificial preservatives, is taking pizza parlors by storm. The non-GMO movement is still on the rise and will stimulate changes in the produce world. Promoting what ingredients you don’t use is an important trend, showing customers you care about their food choices and dietary needs. Gluten-free foods, such as pizza crusts, were once unheard of and now are a mainstay of restaurant menus going forward.
- Ethnic Foods – Mexican chilaquiles, tangy Filipino dishes, starchy African-inspired breakfasts, Japanese chips and other snacks are among the growing list of ethnic foods soon to hit mainstream menus. It’s just another sign of the global impact of food and the increased adventurousness of consumers.
- Don’t Swat That Bug, Eat it! – It may sound a bit creepy but all sorts of bugs will be slipping into foods. Cricket shakes and grasshopper burgers are two that are appearing on menus. Cheap and packed with protein, insects are a popular snack and food additive throughout the world.
It should be another adventurous dining year! Cheers and Bon Appétit.