Restaurant Business has covered which trends we expect to see more of in 2017, but what about the trends that should stay in 2016? For the answer to that question, we reached out to some of the country’s top operators and chefs—including Power 20 honorees such as Mario del Pero and Michael Symon as well as James Beard Award winners like Mindy Segal—for their take on the restaurant trends they hope don’t make it into the new year. Here’s a look at what they said.
Fancy toast and new delivery apps
“A food trend that I hope we grow past in the new year is elevated toast. Beyond the avocado, I’ve recently seen pumpkin, cranberry and even PB&J toast on menus. Essentially, guests are overcharged for crisped bread topped with household condiments. … The only thing elevated is the cost.
“A digital trend I hope not to see in 2017 are any new delivery apps. While I love entrepreneurship (and convenience in the food space), the market has become saturated with new apps and delivery services. At times, some delivery apps offer inaccurate menus that do our guests a disservice (and that can place stress on our operations teams).”
—Michael Heyne, co-founder of Austin, Texas-based fast-casual chain Verts Mediterranean Grill
"I’d like to see the end of anything that's 'deconstructed.' It just doesn’t make sense to me. Why would you deconstruct a dessert? Then you’re only eating part of it; dessert will always taste better whole!"
'The next kale'
"I am so tired about hearing which menu idea is going to be the next kale of the world. The brands that are doing it right are exploring many vegetable options. We went through this and landed with zucchini fries at PDQ—which I love. If I hear about one more food being the next kale, I just may be forced to eat kale!”
—Nick Reader, CEO and co-founder of fast-casual chicken chain PDQ
The quinoa craze and artificial smoked meat
“[Positioning quinoa as] the healthiest and only grain you can use to achieve the health halo … is so short-sighted and discriminatory. I get it—it took most of us five years just to pronounce it correctly—but now that we can, let's invite some other grains to the party. I've met farro, not a bad grain to hang out with. What about red or black rice—great grains [that are] full of personality and diversity!
“[Another trend I’d like to see die is] artificial, manufactured ‘smoked’ meat. When I tried house-smoked pastrami for the first time, I thought it tasted like pastrami, but way better. It was smoked Texas brisket with a delicious acidic brine—absolutely one of the best things I'd ever tasted. Then after doing some research, I found out that some of my beloved Jewish delis were serving a steamed product that had been simply flavored with artificial smoke—huge disappointment. And don't get me started on fake, processed smoked turkey.”
—Mario del Pero, CEO of fast-casual chain Mendocino Farms
Farm to table, craft cocktails, 'chef-driven'
“The ‘farm to table’ trend is completely overused at this point, as it’s been said for years now. What restaurant isn’t farm to table? It should be a given that you support local farms and purveyors … especially if they are in abundance in your region (like in the Southeast).
“The ‘craft cocktail’ and ‘artisanal ice’ trends need to go. All cocktail lists should be carefully crafted, and what really makes ice artisanal, anyway? If the cocktail isn’t good, pretty ice isn’t going to help it.
“I’m already getting tired of the Alabama white sauce trend. It will be on the Chili’s menu in about six months.
“The term ‘chef driven’ has been co-opted by the big chains at this point.”
'Natural' ambiguity and mashups
“2016 was a great year for food … but what I hope not to see this coming year is any more ambiguity around ‘natural foods.’ A continued improvement on true transparency—from packaged brands to restaurant menus—is both my hope and goal for the food space. Besides that, I wouldn’t be upset if we stopped seeing mac and cheese-stuffed foods, ‘lollipop’ anything, pizza burgers and barbecue, pierogi or any other meat-related sundaes.”
—Patrik Hellstrand, CEO and president of Boston-based fast-casual chain Oath Craft Pizza
Food labeled as trends
“I never think of food as trend—just as great or bad food. So as long as the ‘trend’ is tasty, I’m good with it. If not, make it go away. The trend I am most sick of is things getting labeled as ‘trends.’"