Restaurant menus will be shaped to a marked degree next year by kitchens’ efforts to control food costs, influencing but not supplanting the traditional driver of culinary trends, evolving consumer preferences, according to the National Restaurant Association.
In a forecast of the hottest 200-plus culinary trends for 2015, the association included such shifts as the increased use of new meat cuts, number six on the list. “While culinary innovation is part of the reason chefs are experimenting with new cuts of meat, cost management is also driving this trend,” said Annika Stensson, the NRA’s senior manager of research communications.
Similarly, reducing food waste has returned to the list, this time at number nine. The high placement has as much to do with saving money as it does with social responsibility, said Stensson.
Still, sustainability and sourcing concerns continued to dominate the 2015 list, as they have for the last three years. Local sourcing took the top two spots, followed by environmental sustainability (number three), natural ingredients/minimally processed foods (five), hyper-local sourcing (seven), sustainable seafood (nine) and farm/estate branded ingredients (10).
“Chefs are looking to grab a carrot from the field and serve it as simply as possible,” commented Stensson.
Most of the Top 10 are what she called “umbrella trends that grow over a decade or more. For example, nutrition, environmental sustainability and local sourcing are tied to consumer lifestyle philosophies.
“True trends gain momentum and evolve over time,” she said.
The “What’s Hot” culinary forecast is compiled annually by the NRA from an online survey of chefs who belong to the American Culinary Federation. This year 1,276 chefs participated.
The responses pointed to several specific trends that gathered steam this year. Ramen soup gained several points among those surveyed, as did nontraditional flours, such as chickpea and spelt. But gluten-free items lost ground, slipping out of the Top 10.
While the majority of ACF chefs represent higher-end foodservice venues, many of the trends they cited are trickling down to restaurants in every segment. “Consumers are dining out more often and are looking to maintain their food and drink preferences and lifestyle choices wherever they go,” said Stensson. “Operators should look at the growing trends and see how they can be adapted to their concept.”
NRA’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2015
- Locally sourced meats and seafood
- Locally grown produce
- Environmental sustainability
- Healthful kids' meals
- Natural ingredients/minimally processed food
- New cuts of meat
- Hyper-local sourcing
- Sustainable seafood
- Food waste reduction/management
- Farm/estate branded items
NRA’s Top 5 Alcoholic Beverage Trends
- Micro-distilled/artisan spirits
- Locally produced beer/wine/spirits
- Onsite barrel-aged drinks
- Regional signature cocktails
- Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)