Following the trends is important, as operators seek to generate excitement and keep diners coming back. And just as each season sends new (and sometimes a little puzzling) fashions down the runway, different flavors and preparations are always emerging on the restaurant scene.
Here are five trends that operators should be keeping an eye on.
1. Pickled and fermented foods
Pickled and fermented items are going beyond standard relishes and yogurt to include popular ingredients such as kimchi, kombucha and miso. Over the past year, menu mentions of fermented foods have gone up 24%, according to Technomic MenuMonitor data.
These types of foods offer better-for-you health claims, and they are also staples in many global cuisines. Fermented flavors are craveable and pique many consumers’ curiosity—half of millennials find the idea of desserts that include fermented wild blueberries interesting, for instance, according to Technomic data.
2. Breakfast items, anytime
Breakfast foods have long been a craveable item, but consumers—and younger ones in particular—say they increasingly enjoy eating breakfast foods at nontraditional times. According to Technomic’s 2015 Breakfast Consumer Trend Report, 54% of consumers 18-34 say they enjoy breakfast at times other than the morning, and operators are using this trend to drive traffic, offering unique breakfast options and delicious toppings.
Wild-grown ingredients add flavor and nutrition to these breakfast items, and with 60% of consumers likely to purchase breakfast options that are described as all natural, offering high-quality and from-scratch ingredients that center on clean eating are key.
3. Functional foods
Superfoods aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, with menu mentions of these items growing 33.3% year over year, according to Technomic MenuMonitor data.
While kale might be the original superfood, now consumers may be looking for things like quinoa, Greek yogurt, wild blueberries or wild salmon to turn their meals into a nutritional powerhouse. Foods that provide a boost of nutrients are popular, with one in three consumers saying they are likely to buy—and willing to pay more for—items that are high in antioxidants.
4. Flavor infusions
Infusing flavors offers consumers delicious options that they’ll crave, while creating softer takes on sometimes strong flavors.
This is a trend that’s especially popular in desserts and non-alcoholic beverages, which have seen a 13% increase and 50% increase, respectively, in menu incidents year-over-year, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor. Operators can test out offering things such as wild blueberry-infused sodas, jalapeno-infused syrups and more.
5. Real ingredients
Consumers’ interest in clean eating and foods that are good for them is as strong as ever, with 59% of consumers saying that they believe items labeled “clean” are either slightly or much healthier, according to Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report. Operators can leverage this trend by offering foods free of artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners and with hormone- and antibiotic-free proteins, for example.
Other health halos on menus include “all natural” and “real,” and 67% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy foods at restaurants that are “real”—and that doesn’t only refer to dishes such as salads. Ingredients such as “real whipped cream” and “100% real juice” also fall under this health halo that’s becoming more and more popular.