The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) “What’s Hot in 2013” survey of more than 1,800 professional chefs—members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF)—reveals that children’s nutrition and local sourcing will continue to be the hottest trends on restaurant menus.
The chefs also said the best ways to address rising food costs are to change menus, adjust plate composition, and explore sourcing options.
According to the survey, the top 10 menu trends for 2013 will be:
- Locally sourced meats and seafood
- Locally grown produce
- Healthful kids' meals
- Environmental sustainability as a culinary theme
- Children's nutrition as a culinary theme
- New cuts of meat (e.g. Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)
- Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
- Gluten-free cuisine
- Sustainable seafood
- Whole-grain items in kids' meals
“It is encouraging to see that children’s nutrition remains a top priority for chefs and that they continue to put their creativity in healthful kids’ meals to work on restaurant menus,” says Joy Dubost, Ph.D, R.D., director of nutrition & healthy living for the NRA. “We have seen an increasing interest in health and nutrition among consumers over the last several years, and that interest is also extended to children’s menus, which has helped make our Kids LiveWell program so successful.”
Dubost adds, “Local sourcing is another macro-trend that will maintain its momentum in the restaurant community in 2013. Whether purchased from local farms or grown in onsite gardens, many chefs make use of seasonal ingredients to showcase on their menus.”
Michael Ty, CEC, AAC, ACF national president, says, “I am pleased that members of the American Culinary Federation, who took part in the survey, continue to make children’s nutrition a top priority for 2013. Many ACF members are heavily involved in this effort all across the U.S., both in community programs and with Chefs Move to Schools.
“Making sure that nutritious food is available for children and their families, and for everyone in the U.S., is paramount to the future of foodservice,” he adds. “An emphasis on local sourcing can only further that effort, as chefs revise menus to better serve their customers while dealing with the increased cost of ingredients.”
Rounding out the top 20 hot menu trends for 2013 are:
- Farm/estate branded items
- Nonwheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
- Nontraditional fish (e.g. branzino, Arctic char, barramundi)
- Ethnic-inspired breakfast items (e.g. Chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes)
- Fruit/vegetable children's side items
- Health/nutrition as a culinary theme
- Half-portions/smaller portions for a smaller price
- House-made/artisan ice cream
- Black/forbidden rice
- Food trucks
Items that received the highest scores as waning trends (i.e. yesterday’s news) are: froth/air/foam, ramen, gazpacho, “fun-shaped” children’s items, mini-burgers/sliders, flavored/enhanced water, bacon-flavored chocolate, flavored popcorn, fish collars, and desserts with bacon.
Items that received the highest scores as perennial favorites are: Italian cuisine, hamburgers/cheeseburgers, egg dishes, French toast, barbeque, fruit desserts (cobbler, pie, tart), comfort foods, grilling, milkshakes, and Mexican cuisine.
Also included in the survey were questions about technology trends, rising food costs, and nutritious recipes.
More than half (55 percent) of the chefs said they always make efforts to adjust dishes and recipes to be more healthful, while 37 percent said they cook with nutrition in mind, but that not all recipes are easily adjusted.
When asked how to best handle the increasing cost of ingredients, one-third (32 percent) said changing menus, one-quarter (25 percent) said adjusting plate composition, and another quarter (24 percent) said exploring new sourcing options.
Only 4 percent said that raising menu prices is the best strategy.
Just over one-quarter of the chefs (27 percent) ranked tablet computers, such as iPads, as the hottest technology trend in restaurants in 2013, followed closely by smartphone apps (25 percent).
Nineteen percent said mobile/wireless/pay-at-the-table options will be the hottest tech trend.
Highlighting that the restaurant industry is one of opportunity for advancement and entrepreneurship, nine out of 10 (89 percent) of the chefs started their foodservice career at entry level, with dishwasher, busser, line cook, and prep cook being the most common first jobs.
The NRA surveyed 1,834 ACF member chefs in October–November 2012, asking them to rate 198 individual food items, beverages, preparation methods, cuisines, and culinary themes as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite” on restaurant menus in 2013.
These and many other restaurant trends will be showcased at the 2013 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, to be held May 18–21 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.