Hot chicken goes from Nashville to Nagasaki
Customers are still craving spicy chicken sandwiches to the point of waiting in long lines, but the new year will see more katsu and less Kentucky. “Spicy will never go out of style with chicken but surprisingly the Nashville style has not made a huge presence on menus beyond singular specialty items,” says Marco Street, owner of Street’s Fine Chicken. “In 2020, we’ll see new versions of the spiced-up oil preparation that keeps chicken spicy, fresh and interesting, many with Asian and South Asian influences.” A great example is this crispy chicken sandwich with crunchy Asian slaw, gochujang barbecue sauce and pickle chips, part of HMS Host’s Airport Restaurant Month promotion.
The year of the crunch
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Be sure to turn the “sound on” for the year 2020, when menu descriptors like “crispy” and “crunchy” are on level 11. “Consumer demand will move beyond flavor to include texture this year,” according to a trend report by Truly Good Foods. “70% of consumers said texture gives food a more interesting experience. Playing up texture can make existing products more exciting and new products can highlight textures for a fun new experience.”
Breakfast gets elevated
Press Waffle Co.
The most important meal of the day? Maybe, but breakfast can certainly be the most luxurious meal of the day with the proliferation of waffles, cheffed-up Egg McMuffins, perfectly done eggs Benedict and cool items like souffle pancakes, a Japanese trend that took off last year, with mentions on restaurant review site Yelp skyrocketing. Trend experts at Yelp are also keeping a close eye on cinnamon swirl pancakes.
Israeli, Turkish and Lebanese food on the rise
These cuisines made a huge splash in the past year, with chefs like Alon Shaya setting the trend landscape at his modern Israeli restaurant Safta in Denver with platters upon platters of silky hummus, succulent meat, zesty condiments, crisp rice golden from the pan and the bread…a hot-out-of-the-oven pillow of bliss that makes you truly want to take a bite out of life.
Burgers are a constant, whatever they’re made of
Last year, many vegans felt seen and heard when big national chains like Burger King began offering plant-based versions of fast-food favorites like burgers and chicken nuggets. Whether you go grass-fed, plant-based or blended for your burgers, one thing is sure: Americans love our burgers. These craft burgers at Northwestern University showcase the key elements to stay on this trend: brioche buns and super high-quality toppings.
Plant-based is still growing
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Data revealed by reservation app OpenTable shows diners moving toward plant-based, more health-conscious dining preferences in a big way. Mentions of “plant-based” increased by 136% on the site and mentions of “cauliflower crust” skyrocketed in reviews by 487% and “jackfruit,” another alternative, increased in reviews by 148% since 2017. And according to data from GrubHub, cauliflower pizza was the top food of 2019.
Customization is still king
It seemed as if the “build your own” trend may give way to more composed menu items, but customers really do like to do it themselves, as illustrated here with a self-order kiosk at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (UVA)’s new diving venue, the Castle. This format makes ordering easy: Guests choose a base, toppings, a protein, a dressing and the option of a side dish.
Beverages that do more
Say hello to good-mood foods and beverages with function, from adaptogens to probiotics and more mood-altering properties than ever before. Expect adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha blended into wellness-boosting moon milks with ingredients like turmeric, saffron extract and more. Ingredient tend to be eye-catching, too, like this Pink Lady Lemonade at Parakeet Café in San Diego with butterfly pea tea (the color-changing tea that’s purplish blue), lavender honey and sparkling water.
Patina Restaurant Group
“The trend of pink food is still very much alive,” says Tanja Yokum of the Patina Restaurant Group, the catering arm at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This pink Caesar salad is made with radicchio del vento, dulse (red algae) vinaigrette and king trumpet mushroom chips.
Say it with me: Schnitzel
Schnitzel is meat that’s pounded thin, breaded and fried. At the Hotel at Oberlin’s 1833 Restaurant, located on the Ohio college town’s main square, the chef is a hometown hero, Jim Barnhart, who grew up on a nearby farm and whose menu has been influenced by the area’s deep Eastern European roots. Barnhart’s pork schnitzel is crispy on the outside and heavenly/fork-tender on the inside, served with a crunchy cornichon and raw apple salad, bacon-spiked Brussels sprouts and a cute pitcher with savory gravy guests can drizzle at their leisure.
Bowls are a great bet
Kikkoman Sales USA, Inc.
Keep making bowls, because as a format for new flavors, they’re hard to top…er, we mean easy to top…that is, with ingredients from around the globe. These bowls were created for K-12 by Kikkoman.
Dive into regional seafood
Whether it’s a lobster roll, a shrimp po’ boy or a Cali-style crab sandwich (shown here by fast-casual chain Gott’s Roadside), regional seafood sandwiches are interesting to customers, and if you showcase sustainability, even more so.
Is ube the new matcha?
That’s what Yelp trend experts are claiming. A purple yam from the Philippines, ube has been rising as an ice cream flavor and appears to be taking over the dessert scene. At Sunda, a restaurant in Chicago, ube bites are on the brunch menu—more dessert than breakfast—with sweet cream, cheddar cheese and ube butter.
Crazy for carbonara
The word carbonara comes from the Italian word for coal miner, and the dish made it over to America with the reputation as a hearty dish. The use of bacon, eggs and cheese makes this an obvious classic, but it’s seeing a resurgence on menus, like this one at Piada, a fast-casual Italian chain from Ohio.
Dressed up dogs
Hot dogs are more sophisticated and flavorful than ever, and they’re a great way to get creative, like this bacon-sausage dog with pimento cheese on a pretzel bun at NRG Stadium by Denver Chef Chris Shepherd in Aramark’s celebrity chef partnership program.
As more and more people go grain-free, alternative flours are making their mark as an ingredient anywhere you’d use flour. Truly Good Foods identifies these trendy flours as ones to watch in 2020: banana flour, chickpea flour, tigernut (a root vegetable) flour, coconut flour, nut flours (almond, cashew, macadamia) and sorghum flour.
Global curries go fast casual
Uni Curry Bowl
How to make flavors of the world more accessible to your average consumer? Make them fast-casual cool, and grab-and-go-able. In Lincoln, Neb., Shampa Khan started Uni Curry Bowl with help from her husband, Nazim Khan, an accomplished healthcare chef. Menu items are inspired by curries around the world, and include “currytizers,” like breaded beet bites, green curry crab Rangoon and samosas. The rest of the menu is made up of salads, naan wraps and rolls, with veggies and tandoori chicken.
Fry sauce and funeral potatoes: SLC food is next
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47% of millennials are interested in trying fry sauce, according to Datassential research. Fry sauce is a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise. Other Salt Lake City foods to try include funeral potatoes (casserole made with potatoes, cream of chicken soup and a topping of crushed corn flakes) and Navajo tacos with a base of fry bread.
Root & Bone
Deviled eggs…could any other appetizer be equally down-home and high-end? Fancy and rustic deviled eggs are showing up on appetizer and catering menus, a familiar that’s ready to be riffed on. This fancy example is from Root & Bone, a buzzy Miami restaurant with live-music brunch service.
Queso, without a doubt
OpenTable data shows that mentions of “queso” have increased by nearly 31% in the past year, and nachos have been steadily rising on menus, at a rate of 19%. This data points to a dippable, shareable item that’s hot hot hot right now.