Marketing firms af&co and Carbonate predict Quesabirria, hot cocktails and more trends for 2021

The pandemic did not derail trends, and in fact spurred some along

San Francisco-based public relations firm af&co., and its consulting arm, Carbonate, have released their annual list of hospitality trend predictions for the coming year.

Although the industry was hit with a seismic disturbance in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, in many instances that accelerated trends that were already underway, such as ghost kitchens and 3rd-party delivery, which af&co had pointed to as trends last year, and they really took off in response to the pandemic, af&co founder Andrew Freeman said.

They also predicted canned cocktails, restaurants designed to optimize delivery, and the move of workers to home offices, all of which accelerated due to the pandemic. So did sourdough, a flavor that was already trending in 2019 but really gained steam once consumers with extra time on their hands started feeding their own starters for home baking.

The drive for plant-based meat substitutes was not derailed by the pandemic, nor was the interest in lab-grown meat.

“There’s a whole lot of investment going into animal-free animal products,” Freeman said.

The drive for sustainability also continued, along with moves to reduce waste.

The social-justice movement reignited by the murder of George Floyd catalyzed renewed activism among restaurateurs, and Freeman and his associate, Carbonate co-founder Candace MacDonald, said business owners would have to review their hiring practices and strive for equitable pay and broader inclusion of a wider range of voices.

Those factors, and an increasingly diverse customer base — members of Generation Z, the oldest of whom have graduated from college, are the nation’s most diverse generation — “will offer more opportunities for people of color and shining the light on lesser known cuisines,” they said in a trend report released Thursday.

Click through the gallery for a look at other trends predicted by af& co.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@informa.com 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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