Food, drink and restaurant trends are popping up – and then disappearing – faster than ever before. Everyone seems to have an opinion on which trends are going to be big for the next year. How do you know which ones to pay attention to, and which ones will disappear faster than you can say activated charcoal? In preparation for ROOT founder Kuvy Ax’s presentation on 2019 Restaurant Trends at the Wyoming Governor’s Conference on Hospitality & Tourism, our team spent hours sifting through restaurant trends articles by big foodie publications such as the New York Times and Eater, and food & beverage expert organizations like the National Restaurant Association, as well as interviewing top food editors and food experts, to come up the 13 most important trends you should know about for 2019.
Cannabis is King
One of the top trends, if not THE number one trend, is the rise of cannabis-infused food and drinks. Chefs are working fast to be on the leading edge of incorporating THC and CBD into various dishes. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana (it will get you “high”) and CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabidiol component of marijuana (it relieves aches and pains without getting you “high”). CBD is purported to have numerous health benefits including brain health and overall wellbeing. Expect to see things like THC-infused beers, sparkling waters, teas, and coffee, as well as CBD-infused cocktails, lattes, syrups, smoothies, and snacks.
All things fermented are IN this year. People want to consume less processed food and are turning to some of the oldest food traditions – fermentation, pickling and preserving. These gut-friendly foods are full of both flavor and probiotics. Menus will prominently feature things like kimchi, pickled veggies and rinds, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kefir, sourdough, and tepache. Other less well-known fermented foods like turnip greens and mushrooms will also grow in popularity. One thing’s certain – kombucha on tap will become commonplace in many restaurants.
Attack of the Sours
Bitter was king in 2018, and now sour flavors will come to the forefront in 2019. In addition to sour flavors from more fermented products (see above), sour flavors in beers and cuisines are all the rage. The sourness of fermented foods like kimchi and pickles will pop up on menus everywhere. Also expect to see more dishes from cuisines like Filipino, Korean and Persian that prominently feature sour flavors. When it comes to beverages, sour beers will gain traction, like goses and wild ales, as well as kombucha, shrubs, and ciders.
Kick the Waste
Zero-waste cooking is on the rise as consumers want to know restaurants are producing as little waste as possible when preparing their meals. Growing attention is given to sustainability and environmentally friendly practices. Zero-waste cooking also lends itself to creativity in the kitchen – consider using the entire vegetable (stalks, greens, skins) or the entire animal (offal, marrow). Chefs are working to find more ways to use and transform food scraps, “ugly” or damaged produce, and leftovers.
Using locally-sourced produce, meats, and spirits has been a top trend for the last five years and is only growing stronger. More than ever before, consumers want to know where their food comes from. It’s not enough to locally source just one ingredient – the more local ingredients on the menu, the better! Vegetables are the most common ingredients to be locally sourced, but this should also include fruit, meat and dairy (and alcohol)! A hyper-local approach supports vendors and farmers in the community, reduces the environmental impact from transporting food long distances, and ensures foods lose less nutrients during transportation.
Plant-Based is Here to Stay
Whether for health, ethical or environmental reasons, consumers want more plant-based foods and protein alternatives. Expect to see more lentils, beans, chickpeas, and nuts. Plant-based protein alternatives to meat are getting tastier and more creative by the day. Products like the Impossible Burger are already outselling traditional burgers in some markets. Consumers who want more plant-based foods may not identify as vegan or vegetarian, but are simply looking to reduce their meat and dairy intake, whether for a meal or a day.
Rise of the Vegetables
Speaking of which… consumers are eating and craving more vegetables and menus are reflecting that demand. Restaurants don’t need to be ALL vegetarian in order to jump on board the trend of more vegetable-centered dishes. Adding more sides or entrees that feature vegetables is easy. Vegetarian mains will be showcased more prominently on menus, with just as much thought put into them as meat mains. What are “whole vegetable” entrees? Think of the “whole beast” movement, but now with vegetables. Also expect to see more all-vegetarian tasting menus.
Off-Beat Meats & Seafood
Meat eaters and omnivores fear not! Even though plant-based and vegetarian foods are gaining popularity, most consumers still love meat. Plus, today’s consumer is more adventurous than ever. They’re looking for new foods and experiences, and that includes new cuts and types of meat. Seafood menus will feature more squid, cuttlefish, geoduck, roe, monkfish, and trippa. New cuts of meat will also gain prominence, like Vegas strip steak, merlot cut, shoulder tender, bavette, and oyster steak.
Food Easier Than Ever
Consumers want good food fast, with an emphasis on quality ingredients. Snacks are becoming more and more popular, with unique and interesting snacks leading the pack. Snacking is no longer an afterthought – it’s an expected habit of everyday eating. “Grab and go” will also continue its popularity growth. Keeping in this vein, chef-driven fast casual outfits are on the rise. Chefs are putting as much thought into these fast casual concepts as traditional ones, including prominently featuring luxury ingredients on the menu. Consumers want quality food without the time and money of traditional sit-down dining.
Craft, Artisanal & Local Beverages
We know people love local, but it’s especially true when it comes to beverages. This trend is going stronger than ever and shows no signs of slowing. Consumers are drinking local, craft and artisanal spirits, beers and wines in higher rates than ever. In addition to the boozy stuff, consumers are also looking for other drinks like coffee, tea and sodas to be “craft” or artisanal.
Restaurants & Brands for Good
In 2019, consumers want to see that their restaurants and brands care about more than just making a profit; they want to see that they are giving back to the community. Consumers want their brands’ values to align with theirs. This includes supporting various causes like greater sustainability, hunger and poverty reduction, animal welfare, women-owned businesses, and much more. Involvement in these causes takes many forms and ranges from chefs getting involved in global natural disaster relief or restaurants having regular nights where a portion of proceeds is donated to a local charity or non-profit.
Less Booze, More Flavor
People are increasingly becoming more conscientious when it comes to alcohol consumption or choosing to live a substance-free lifestyle year-round. Other trends things like “Dry January” are pushing restaurants and bars to offer more alcohol-free options. Consumers who want low- or non-alcoholic drinks still want to spend money on scrumptious beverages. Expect to see more mocktails with unique and exciting flavors, house-made sodas, and fresh ingredients. Low-alcohol spirits, wine and beer will also pop up on more menus.
Trend reports love to predict the new “it” cuisine, and the predictions are literally all over the map. While many non-Western European cuisines will become more prevalent, you can be sure to see more of Middle Eastern cuisines gaining momentum – Israeli, Lebanese, Syrian, Georgian, and Turkish. Ingredients like dates, mint and pistachios, plus dishes like khachapuri (a popular Georgian-style pizza) and shakshuka (a Middle Eastern breakfast dish) will appear on more menus in 2019.