As we kick off 2016 attention turns from festive planning to the hottest food trends and menu ideas. Identifying these trends is crucial to understanding your competition and inspiring new, exciting dishes which can increase uptake.
However, restaurant trends aren’t strictly about the food, as changing patterns in décor, service and presentation are worth keeping an eye out for to get ahead and start the year with a bang. For instance, you could mix table tops and bases to create a look that suits your unique business.
1. Smart delivery servicesAccording to long time food experts Baum & Whiteman, ‘tech-driven’ delivery will continue to rise in 2016. With constant improvements to Google location services and the rise of middle men such as Uber and Yelp providing feedback on menu choices, consumers are able to sit back, claim loyalty points on their smartphone and access quality restaurant food from the comfort of their own home.
This suggests customers will benefit from ease of convenience and increased variety. Some restaurants have already increased their delivery prices to account for the broader choices available and efficiency of these fast growing delivery services.
2. Stripped-out menusWe know that removing additives from foods has been a government initiative for a while, endorsed by TV chefs and echoed by the food standards agency amid concerns of high sugar content, driven further by links between food colourings and hyperactivity in children.
Instead of relying on pastoral images of livestock to reassure customers, concrete restaurant initiatives are what are driving the desire for organic menus. This means delving deeper into the source of meat and use of additives such as titanium dioxide, a whitening agent used in paint. Now more than ever, restaurateurs will be keen to boast of their food sources and in turn will encourage locally sourced produce.
Take a look at Honest Burgers’ menu for an example of this trend in practice.
3. Flavours Of AfricaAccording to the National Restaurant Association, African flavours have seen the biggest rise in popularity of any upcoming trend.
This immense continent is providing the source of inspiration for some incredibly diverse cuisine, so you’ll never be short of choice. ‘Fufu’ is just one example of this influx, typically eaten with various Nigerian soup recipes. Fufu involves mashing starchy foods or mixing them in hot water, they rely on the richness of soups to bring the dish alive. Some Fufu recipes include Agidi, Amala, Pounded Yam, Tuwo Shinkafa and Cassava Fufu, to name a few.
4. Pasta alternatives
Spiralizer recipes are making great use of vegetables like zucchini, courgettes, carrots, beetroot and potato to name a few. The ribbon-shaped results of this trendy technique are a suitable homage to our previously beloved pasta and in 2016 we may even see a completely gluten-free plate, squeezing organic vegetables into purees, dough and replacing space on the plate once filled with carbs and oily sauces.
5. Vegetables taking centre stageBuying seasonal produce has several benefits to the consumer and grower but asides from marketing opportunities, the rotation of seasonal veg helps to keep menus fresh and preserve flavours at their best. Restaurant menus are showcasing incredibly complex plates of food made entirely by organic, seasonal vegetables. This means they can boast that ingredients are used from ‘root to stem’. Where skins, pips and seeds have been discarded in the past are now used to make oils and garnishing. Therefore we’re highly likely to see a trend not only in these complex flavour combinations but also in presentation and arrangement on the plate in the final flourish.
The renewed focus on vegetables also promises lighter and more varied vegetarian options and a growth in locally sourced produce.
6. PokePoke (pronounced ‘Poke - ay’) originates from Hawaii and is served everywhere from the grocers to surf shacks and petrol stations. The name comes from the verb ‘to chop’ and so can mean anything which has been ‘chunked’. A bowl of chopped raw fish, most commonly Tuna, is tossed with a salad and marinade which is often made with soy sauce, sesame oil, chilli and garlic. The advantage of this fresh and exciting dish sweeping through the West is the huge range of potential flavours for the marinade, and the substitutions for the fish: where tofu and kale are often used as vegan alternatives.
7. Juicing: making the most of your fruit and vegJuicing is a fantastic way to extract the goodness from veg into a healthy tonic, but more importantly help shape a mouth-watering appetiser menu. To provide your customers with pulp-free juice, get yourself an industrial juicer for maximum reliability, output and versatility.
However, in 2016 customers look set to be enjoying more fibres, and stems and seeds from your fruit and veg. With a high nutritional value, huge detox benefits and a more fulfilling meal: juices look to be presented more like a soup or broth with every part used and nothing wasted.
Health concerns relating to sugar intake have left both consumers and restaurateurs looking at more natural alternatives. The 37% rise in the sale of Cacao bars in 2015 demonstrates this perfectly. With a sweetness of its own, foods like coconut remain popular in Thai and Indonesian cuisine, with several health benefits such as a low glycaemic index and short chain fatty acids which are essential for a healthy heart.
Honey, although a great natural sweetener still contains calories and therefore should still be used sparingly. Its benefits include anti-inflammatory effects.
9. SeaweedThis nutritious and abundant superfood has long been enjoyed as part of the Japanese diet but is about to drop into the mainstream. Packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, this inexpensive food has over 100 edible species and several significant health benefits. As an alkaline food it helps to balance a diet as so many foods are naturally acidic. This helps with health problems such as heartburn, and with very low calorie content also makes a popular dietary fibre.
Seaweed is incredibly versatile and makes a great seasoning when dried. It also contains Vitamin B12 which is rarely found in vegetables. Some popular seaweed dishes include Tofu Gimbap, Soba soup and Green Nori salad.
10. 'Eat with your eyes'Naturally, flavours have always provided the core of innovation for fresh recipes but we are seeing a strong trend towards the use of bold colours and artful presentation. Experimenting with colours, shapes and textures are the new way to force consumer feedback and encourage social media posts in 2016.
David Gapp, qualitative director at PPLINSIGHTS, a UK market research agency, discusses this concept in detail:
“Primarily soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, snacks, confectionery – those are the popular areas – eat with your eyes. It’s all about using colour, disruptive colour, in different categories. So for example you can see black water or black vodka.”
“There’s quite a lot of room for innovation – we are going to continue to see this trend growing. If you think about the ‘visually stimulated’ millennial generation it’s become a much bigger deal and going forward it is going to be even more important.”
Colours are used to great effect in cocktails, and now we’re seeing this move into cuisine, adding to the overall spectacle, not just the finished plate of food.
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By Jeff Gibson