The fastest-growing flavors in the last year for each segment shed light on many industry trends. Technomic’s MenuMonitor data also shows how segments are opting for different culinary tactics to draw in consumers. While some segments are emphasizing the classics, others are basing their culinary strategies around more emerging flavors. Here’s a look at the fastest-growing flavors in quick-service, fast-casual, midscale, casual-dining and fine-dining restaurants.
1. QSR: Honey butter
Honey butter mentions jumped 25% in the last year, with most mentions appearing in fried chicken offerings, where honey butter lends a sweetness to the comfort food classic that gravy and Buffalo sauces lack. This year, Church’s Chicken expanded the popularity of its Honey-Butter Biscuits to a chicken product: Honey-Butter Biscuit Tender Strips. An order of three chicken tenders, two small sides and a biscuit is $4.99.
2. Fast casual: Adobo
Growing 40% year over year on fast-casual menus, adobo sauce is unsurprisingly most common in Mexican dishes. The piquant sauce—made from ground chilies, herbs and vinegar—adds spice to Latin-inspired salads, bowls, tacos and wraps. Available through Sept. 5, Pollo Campero’s Latin Shakers featured a cup of white-meat chicken pieces shaken with a choice of sauces, including a Sweet Adobo variety.
3. Midscale: Miso
Miso has increased a whopping 225% at midscale restaurants over the last year. Operators like Carroll Gardens Classic Diner in Brooklyn, N.Y., are featuring the fermented Japanese soybean paste in traditional miso soup as an ethnic departure from the diner’s many traditional American soups like chicken noodle and Yankee bean.
4. Casual dining: Dark cherry
Skyrocketing 85.7% in the last year, dark cherry is also the fastest-growing flavor on menus overall. Though heavily featured in traditional breakfast dishes and desserts, more operators are using the fruit in innovative cocktails and to balance meat-centric entrees. Brick House’s fall cocktail menu includes a Twisted Old Fashioned and Sparkling Cider Sangria, both featuring dark cherries.
5. Fine dining: Hibiscus
Operators in the fine-dining segment are increasingly highlighting hibiscus for its sweet, tart flavor enhancement in salads, desserts, mocktails and cocktails. And especially in beverages, hibiscus often lends a vibrant pink-red color. This year, Ruth’s Chris hosted a one-day dinner that spotlighted hibiscus prominently in both food and beverage: a Tequila-Cured Salmon had a side of fennel-hibiscus salad, and its paired Crescent City Cooler tequila cocktail featured hibiscus tea.