Every year, the National Restaurant Association asks professional chefs—members of the American Culinary Federation—to forecast what will be big in the coming year, then ranks the predictions from hottest to least hot. While many of the trends predicted by the nearly 1,600 chefs for 2016 touched on such past list-toppers as local sourcing, minimally processed ingredients and sustainability, there were a few surprises on the 2016 What’s Hot list. Here are 10 that stood out.
Chef-driven fast casuals
The trend isn’t what’s surprising. The fact that it made it into the second slot is. Big names such as Jose Andres, Roy Choi and others have brought attention to more high-end chefs downscaling their offerings for the fast-casual market as quality continues to drive consumers’ purchasing decisions.
(NRA ranking: #2)
Farm and estate-branded items
Today’s consumers want to know more about what they’re eating, and that includes knowing the origin and backstory of ingredients. In an effort to be transparent, putting the specific source on the menu gives consumers the “who” and “where” story to their food.
(NRA ranking: #13)
New cuts of meat ranks as a Top 10 trend this year (Number 8, to be exact), but extracting and using those cuts takes a trained hand. So while artisan charcuterie has been big in years past, now it’s all about butchering the animal versus preserving it.
(NRA ranking: #14)
Fresh or housemade sausages
Others have predicted that peasant fare—especially sausages and meatballs—will be big in 2016. For chefs, adding the housemade element to both traditional and ethnic-inspired sausages elevates the dish. Plus, in light of the World Health Organization's claim that processed meats are carcinogenic, sausages that are made in house versus processed have added appeal.
(NRA ranking: #17)
Cocktails: Onsite barrel-aged drinks
As the mixology movement pushes forward, so, too, does the methods by which bartenders are concocting drinks. While barrel-aged cocktails already have been happening on a very limited scale, it’ll be an added element in the batch-cocktail trend that not only makes for easier service but adds flavor.
Kids’ meals: Kids’ entrée salads
Kids are being raised in a foodie-forward environment, as well as one that puts a focus on health. So instead of offering only traditional options such as chicken fingers and grilled cheese, smaller portions of dishes suited for adults are hitting menus for kids.
To see all of the trends forecast by the NRA, click here.