Top 10 restaurant trends for 2014: From veg proteins and Korean kimchi to the comeback of carbs…

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Where's the beef? (look out for more meat-free burgers on the menu, says Technomic). Picture: Gardein burger
Where's the beef? (look out for more meat-free burgers on the menu, says Technomic). Picture: Gardein burger

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What will we be eating in restaurants next year, and how will that impact what we buy at the supermarket?

According to foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic, carbs could stage a comeback and meat-alternatives will continue to gain ground. Here’s its pick of the top 10 trends to watch:

1. GET REAL:​ Expect more menu items listing ingredients, where they came from and how they were prepared, more local sourcing and greater attempts at authenticity.


2. PROTEIN, FROM REGIONAL BBQ TO MEAT-FREE:​ Higher beef costs mean chicken will be big again in 2014, predicts Technomic. “However, the latest protein star is pork—appearing in regional barbecue items, in Hispanic and other ethnic fare, in charcuterie and as pulled-pork sandwiches. Also getting time in the spotlight are lamb and game meats, from duck to bison. Beyond meat, look for creative center-of-the-plate egg dishes as well as vegetarian alternatives, from mushrooms to beans to soy-based products like Gardein and Chipotle’s Sofritas.”

3. CARBS STAGE A COMEBACK:​ From ramen to buckwheat noodles to pasta made with unusual ingredients, starch is back, says Technomic. “Rice bowls (and jasmine rice, basmati rice, brown rice) will be big, in part because of continued fascination with Asian fare and in part because of an association with healthfulness. Look for more in the way of flatbreads, wraps and all kinds of artisan breads, including healthy whole-grain varieties. Waffles as a base or side make traditional savory items like chicken seem edgy.”

4. COMFORT FOOD:​ Look out for more cheese melts, pasta with creamy sauces, fried appetizers and sides, and oddities like doughnut-based sandwiches, says Technomic.


5. ETHNIC CUISINE:​ Expect more Korean and Scandinavian fare and growing interest in pickled, fermented and sour foods: “Korean kimchi as well as pickled onion, jalapeño, ginger, radish and more are showing up everywhere from ethnic eateries to burger joints. On the beverage menu, the trend is seen in sour cocktails as well as new flavor combinations with sour notes—a reaction to last year’s candy-sweet drinks.”

6. 24-HOUR SNACKING:​ As we’ve often noted on FoodNavigator-USA, the days of three-square-meals are numbered​, with many Americans now grazing throughout the day, or eating foods they once ate at dinner, for breakfast, and vice versa.

And restaurants are addressing this trend, says Technomic. “More restaurants are introducing innovative breakfast items—like chicken, turkey or steak breakfast sandwiches or super-spicy wraps with chipotle or Sriracha—often available all day. And while breakfast-and-lunch-only concepts are building a niche, other operators are promoting late-night breakfast menus, often in conjunction with 24-hour drive-thru service."

Starbucks cake pops

7. CREATIVE SNACKING:​ Expect more snack-size handheld foods, car-friendly packaging and more grab-and-go or market-style offerings. Meanwhile, full-service operators will also try to cater to demand for more snacking-and-sharing with pairings, trios and flights from all parts of the menu—from soup trios to beer samplers to retro popsicle-flight desserts, predicts Technomic.

8. ON TAP:​ Tap technology is revolutionizing the beverage world, says Technomic. “Barrel-stored cold-brewed coffee that can be sent through repurposed beer taps, facilitating a new kind of coffee bar; soda-water taps that allow chefs to create their own fruity soft drinks; wine-on-tap tasting stations in high-end supermarkets; keg-wine bar concepts and retrofits; RFID-card-controlled self-serve beer-tap walls at high-tech pubs.”

9. IPAD ORDERS:​ Expect more foodservice outlets to help you order your food, your way, using mobile devices.


10. FOOD POLITICS:​  Deliberately or otherwise, restaurant operators got caught up in political controversy as never before in 2013, notes Technomic.

“Some suffered customer backlash after expressing views related to Obamacare, ‘family values’ or other topics, but others saw increased traffic. Consumers are increasingly aware that the personal is political—that their choices and those of the restaurants they patronize regarding food, treatment of employees and suppliers, sustainability and the environment have real consequences. Consciously or unconsciously, they will gravitate to concepts that share their worldview, and some restaurants will promote this cultural identification.”

 Click on the link below for FoodNavigator-USA's 10 trends to watch in food and beverage.

FoodNavigator-USA's 10 hot topics in food and beverage development: Are you up to speed?

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