10 Restaurant Trends to Watch

Presented at National Peanut Board’s 2019 Next Gen Food Summit

By Cathy Nash Holley, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Flavor & The Menu, www.getflavor.com

Dynamic food and beverage trends are a hallmark of America’s foodservice industry. These trends not only provide a timestamp of our food culture, with its steady adoption of global ingredients and menu concepts, but trends also provide growth opportunities in the competitive foodservice industry. Keeping pace with menu and flavor trends gives chefs and menu developers an edge, allowing for menus that stand apart from their competition. In many cases, peanut ingredients can add both familiarity and exoticism to on-trend dishes. At Flavor & The Menu, we see the following 10 trends as big opportunities for 2019:

1. Egg Innovations

We’ve seen egg-topped burgers and pizzas for a few years now, but the egg is not done showcasing its diverse menu ingenuity. Chefs are using the egg to add oomph to avocado toast, drizzling sous-vide egg yolk over flatbreads, shaving cured yolk atop pasta, mashing-up deviled egg builds, and even elevating the classics like egg salads, soft scrambles and omelettes. Skillet applications like shakshuka are further fueling the trend. 

2. The Bing Goes Big

We’re always on the lookout for the next global platform—that which gives American menu developers the opportunity to stuff or wrap up a wide range of flavor profiles.

There's budding opportunity in the Chinese jianbing. These savory, egg-based carriers offer next-level craveability—along with fantastic global street cred. Jianbing, or bings, are popping up on menus across the country—from Mr. Bing’s Maple Bacon Egg & Cheese Bing in New York to the Hakka Style Salted Chicken version at Jian in Chicago—showcasing the bing’s big ability to carry a vast range of fillings.

3. The Next French Revolution

French is a foundational cuisine that is held in high esteem in this country, carrying with it a rich culinary pedigree. Something interesting is happening today, where a new rush of modern brasseries and bistros are borrowing the playbook from Modern American cuisine. They're moving beyond classic French fare and getting creative with both form and flavor, but maintaining a playful elegance. For example, Bistro Georgette in Denver serves its version of chicken and waffles in their Pain Perdu with fried chicken and syrup. Seattle's Bateau menus a Reuben Mille Feuille—smoked brisket, purple cabbage and Russian dressing on rye. The opportunity sees chefs reaching back into French cuisine and melding it with an eclectic American sensibility—all on the backbone of a proven and beloved tradition of culinary excellence. 

4. Indulgent vegan

Modern food-product development has yielded a fantastic array of items that are finally making vegan fare not just palatable, but delicious. Meanwhile, chefs are more than happy to explore the many options for modern vegan fare, building on the veg-centric and plant-based momentum, in part to push the boundaries of culinary development, but with the added bonus of appealing to the vegan consumer, who until recent years, wasn't a primary restaurant user. From alternative dairy products to plant (or lab)-based meats, new food products have moved vegan fare from functional to flavor-forward, enticing even the non-vegan. 

5. Rice Rebirth

Rice is making big moves on menus today, showing up in globally inspired dishes, mash-ups and flavor forward side dishes. Heritage is playing a part in this insurgency with chefs calling out rice varieties and telling their origin stories. Rice is also moving pushing boundaries in daypart moves (fried rice at breakfast) and new formats (puffed applications, modernized rice balls). Global comfort rice dishes are also making bigger plays—Brazilian feijoada, West African jollof rice, Indian bhel puri, to name a few—thanks to a satisfying craveability and a format that allows for wild creativity. 

6. Pearls, dusts, crystals, powders

With texture making a bigger impact on menu items today, we’re starting to see more inclusion of edgier textural components like flavor-filled “pearls,” spicy “dusts” and crystallized flavor compounds. Such products allow for flavor in new forms, from balsamic “caviar” and EVOO powder sprinkled atop a Caprese salad to a pumpkin-spice crystals rimming a seasonal cocktail. The inherent Wow! factor is an added bonus.

7. XO Sauce

This umami-rich Cantonese condiment of dried seafood, chiles and soy has been creeping into development in more varied-menu concepts. Using the proven strategy of employing global condiments as a safe flavor exploration, chefs are using it as a funky/fermented addition, atop a mushroom pizza at Pacific Standard in Chicago or flavoring the dry-aged pork roast at True Laurel in San Francisco. They’re also reaching for it in bold, signature creations like maple-XO sauce or a bacon-XO jam. Plus, the cool and intriguing name brings instant cache.

8. Flatbreads Rise

Thanks to the Eastern Med movement, flatbreads are getting a new lease as a trend-forward menu item. The many budding Eastern Med concepts are introducing chefs and diners to a new way with flatbreads – charred and chewy, pulled apart and served with a range of dips and spreads. These go [literally] hand-in-hand with the hummus boom, and also showcase many intriguing sauces like burnt honey or smoked yogurt (at Ciudad in Seattle), or spicy fermented sausage, grated tomato, pine nuts, nigella seed, mint and sumac (at Bavel in Los Angeles).

9. Pastry Stars

A few solid years of Instagram love is making chefs take the croissant seriously. Sure, the cronut craze was perhaps a big spike in an otherwise unchanging world of pastry, but it no doubt was the spark for chefs to take another look at the power of pastry. We’re now starting to see the croissant as the core concept for newly opened bakeries around the country, from Belleville in Portland, Maine, to The Twisted Croissant in Portland, Oregon, offering both sweet and savory versions in spectacular builds. For example, Supermoon Bakehouse in New York City menus a PB Jelly twice-baked croissant with peanut butter creme patissiere, strawberry jam and toasted crushed peanuts and topped with peanut brittle, cream & dehydrated strawberries. Looking beyond the croissant, other laminated-dough pastries like the cruller, kouign amman and hybrids like the cruffin are getting more play. Their inherent social media-friendly format helps keep these pastries cool.

10. Functional Beverage Builders

“Functional” has been the wellness-building buzzword for a couple years now, moving into beverages in the booming category of juices, mainly in the retail segment and hip juice bars. Now, we’re seeing the functional factor make moves on beverage menus—both alc and non-alc—in broader foodservice segments. Jamba Juice’s Protein smoothies feature a Peanut Butter and Banana Chocolate flavor. This Millennial-driven trend has a leading cast of characters: kombucha, honey, turmeric, ginger, plus veg-centric purees (beet, carrot) that all add heath-giving attributes to beverage builds. Moving in from the cutting edge are functional enhancers like CBD, which is making plays on mixologist-focused concepts and indie coffeehouses alike.  


Header image: Spicy Peanut Curry. Roasted Vegetable Peanut Salad with Hot Nuts by chefs Kevin Gillespie, Red Beard Restaurants; Issamu Kamide, Ferrera Candy Company; Kelly Bone, The Veg Foodie; and Cheryl Drummond, Torchy Tacos

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