By Rieva Lesonsky
The New Year is almost here, and to help food and restaurant entrepreneurs take advantage of the hottest trends in dining next year, foodservice consulting firm Technomic has released its predictions for the top trends that will shape the food business in 2013. Based on interviews, surveys and site visits, Technomic says the top 10 trends will be hot next year:
- Vegetables take a leading role. Consumers’ flirtation with vegetarian food will evolve into fascination with actual vegetables. Foodservice operators should consider innovative ways to use vegetables both as side dishes and main menu items. Bonus? Vegetables are a great lower-cost alternative to meat to help keep your operating costs down.
- Grains go big. Grains’ nutritional value is being recognized, and gluten-conscious consumers are driving growth in gluten-free grains such as quinoa, amaranth, millet, wild rice, corn, oats and buckwheat. Play up the natural grains in your packaged food items or restaurant dishes.
- Chicken takes center stage. The number of quick-service and fast-casual fried-chicken concepts is growing as operators add unique takes like Southern, Latin-accented or spicy twists on the bird. Watch for African peri-peri chicken.
- Snack attack. Consumers’ desire for street/truck food, low cost foods, and food at any time of day or night are making snacking a hot and growing trend. Whether it’s mini-items at quick-serve restaurants or tapas and mezze at white-tablecloth eateries, the snacking craze shows no signs of abating.
- Thinking big. An equal and opposite reaction to the snack trend is big-value, family-sized meals. Typically offered by fast-food restaurants for diners who want to get dinner on the table quickly for a busy family, the concept can also be translated to higher-end restaurants for customers who want to host home gatherings without doing the cooking themselves, but don’t need full-scale catering.
- Diner and deli comfort food. Continuing the comfort food craze that started with the recession, diners and delis are currently points of inspiration. Whether it’s gourmet pickles or overstuffed sandwiches, consider how you could add diner or deli flavor to your eatery.
- Noodle shops. Americans are comfortable with Asian food now, so it makes sense that Asian noodles are coming back in a big way. From ramen and udon to soba and cellophane noodles, restaurants are spotlighting noodles as the basis for entrees.
- Hot cuisine: South America. Consumers are expanding from Mexican food to less-familiar cuisines such as Brazilian, Argentinian and Peruvian food. Grilled meats, South American-Asian fusion seafood dishes, and iconic beverages such as Brazil’s caipirinha will become more widely popular.
- Fast casual gets global. Ethnic foods and flavors ranging from good ol’ barbecue to Southeast Asian to Middle Eastern are popping up even in fast-casual eateries.
- Unique beverages. Customers will quench their thirst with fresh fruit (especially tropical fruit) beverages; natural energy drinks; house-made sodas; cocktails with sweet, flavored vodkas; microdistillery liquors; regional craft brews; and hard ciders.
If your restaurant is in an urban locale, some of these trends may have already taken hold in your area. Watch for them to spread to more suburban areas next year.
Image by Flickr user Rooey202 (Creative Commons)