7 Hot Menu Trends Foodies Can Expect in 2016
Each year, the National Restaurant Association surveys a large batch of professional chefs on which food, cuisines, beverages and culinary themes they think will be hot menu trends in the year to come.
Based on recent feedback from nearly 1,600 members of the American Culinary Federation, here are 7 trends you can expect to see in 2016.
1. Keep it Simple.
Leonardo da Vinci once said that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Today, many in the culinary community seem to agree.
Simply put, back-to-basics cooking and classic dishes are hot. While molecular gastronomy is turning more mainstream, there is a counter-movement brewing that focuses on stripping down recipes to fewer ingredients. Venerable preparation methods like pickling, fermenting, and smoking are back with a vengeance, and traditional recipes are being refreshed for today’s tastes.
2. Local, local and even more local.
The political idiom “all politics is local” might have a fitting culinary adaptation these days. Locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, and hyper-local sourcing all rank in the top five menu trends for 2016.
Consumers increasingly consider local sourcing a key attribute when choosing a restaurant. In fact, about 7 in 10 say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers such items. Chefs are taking notice.
3. Chef-driven fast-casual
Fast-casual dining continues its popular growth across the nation, and with that has come an explosion of chef-driven fast-casual concepts — ranking #2 in the 2016 What Hot Culinary Forecast.
Think Bobby Flay’s Bobby’s Burger Palace and Jose Andres’ Beefsteak, but also beyond celebrity names — it boils down to fine dining-inspired fare in a quick-service setting.
4. Ethnic condiments & spices.
Is Sriracha the new ketchup? The red sauce in the bottle with the green top is ubiquitous, but just a few years ago, only Thai food enthusiasts were familiar with this condiment.
Following in its popularity growth are a range of other condiments and spices from various global cuisines applied to anything and everything to create brand new flavor combinations. Chimichurri as a hamburger topping. Peri peri barbecue ribs. Za’atar spread on crostini. Raita with hot wings. You get the idea.
5. African flavors.
International cuisines have long been ingrained in our everyday diets (think Italian, Mexican, Chinese). But despite its vast array of distinct cuisines, the continent of Africa is still relatively under-explored when it comes to culinary experiences in the United States.
Perhaps for not much longer. Berbere, harissa, dukkah, ras el hanout, tsire and other spice mixes and flavors are likely to gain wider use, as African flavors are a fast-growing trend.
6. Takin’ it to the streets.
For years food trucks have been one of the hot trends in the restaurant industry. With consumers showing increased interest in mobile foodservice, more restaurateurs expand their brick-and-mortar operations by adding trucks, which requires thinking outside the four walls of their restaurants and instead on four wheels.
Now dovetailing with that trend are street food-inspired main courses, found as both appetizers and entrees back inside brick & mortar restaurants. Expect to see these often ethnic cuisine-inspired, handheld, simple street food staples like empanadas and kebabs migrating to menus indoors.
7. House-made everything.
In-house is in vogue.
From pickles and condiments, to charcuterie and sausage, to beer and soft drinks…one recurring theme up and down the What’s Hot Survey and across all categories is “house-made.”
Explore the entire What’s Hot 2016 Culinary Forecast.