Matt Green – Director of Culinary Operations, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting
We are in and out of restaurants all of the time, talking with our clients about what works and what doesn’t, what their guests are asking for, and which new concepts they are dreaming up. Through this process, we begin to see some patterns emerge. It’s amazing the way that all of a sudden everyone starts talking about wanting to cook the same things. With that in mind, we are excited to present our 2018 food trend predictions:
- Vegetables as the Stars of the Show: People are excited once again to eat their vegetables. We predict a greater focus on building a meal or a menu around the vegetables on the plate – not just around a hunk of meat with a splash of green on the side. Vegetables are versatile and variable, providing novelty-hungry diners with different flavors and textures.
- The Southern Coast of the Mediterranean: Americans have been in love with European-Mediterranean cuisine for decades. That attention is beginning to migrate south. In 2018, we will begin to see flavors from North Africa and the Middle East appearing on our plates. If you don’t already know what toum, harissa, and muhammara are, you will by the end of this year. From Morocco to Lebanon, the food from these regions are varied, yet they share so many ingredients and techniques with the European Mediterranean that make it makes for an easy transition from gyros to shawarma.
- Root to Leaf: Chefs have “rediscovered” nose to tail eating in the last 10 years, and are making a concerted effort to use every part of the animal. This put trotters and heart back on menus across the country. The creative energy is now being used to serve customers other parts of plants they may have never eaten before. With ingredients like parsley root, pumpkin leaves, and watermelon seeds, chefs are trying to use the whole plant and throw nothing away.
- Powders and Ash: Sometimes we want the flavor of a sliced tomato without the look of a sliced tomato. Dehydrating and grinding ingredients into powder or burning them into ash gives chefs ways to add flavor and texture to a dish while completely transforming the original ingredient. Chefs are doing this to surprise and delight guests, and are transforming their presentations and experimenting with new flavors and techniques.
- Fermenting Everything: Intentional fermentation has been around for most of human history. It holds the key to much of the world’s favorite food and drinks in every culture. In 2018, fermentation culture (definitely meant that pun) will continue to expand. From home meal kits to top restaurants, we’ll see people swapping ingredients for sourdough starters, vinegar mothers, and their favorite kombucha scoby.
- Non-Alcoholic Beverages: The cocktail renaissance is coming for your soft drink. Bartenders – or “mixologists,” depending on the presence of a handlebar mustache or suspenders – are expanding beyond their carefully curated craft cocktails list and will be making exciting and delicious drinks without any alcohol in them. Coke and iced tea have ruled the NA Bev market for too long and will see their market share fall as restaurants finally pay attention to this part of their menus.
- Grandmother is Back: Simple one-pot meals are satisfying, budget friendly, and easy to make. This will appeal to restaurants and home cooks. You’ll see these dishes popping up on menus and at dinner parties – and on your own table. Basic ingredients, easy techniques, and the appeal to a simpler time will have “grandmother cuisine” all over the country in 2018.
- Pop-Ups and Chef Collaborations: The occasional pop-up dinner at a friend’s restaurant or a series of collaborations with other chefs is a great way for chefs to experiment and flex their creativity – without having to change their menu or concept. There was a time where every chef who wanted to open a restaurant launched a food truck first. Now, aspiring chefs can host pop-ups in licensed restaurants or secret locations to hone their craft, test their recipes, and build a following.
- Mindful Eating: As obsessed as we are with food, we don’t always think a lot about what we are eating. In 2018, this will shift as the mindfulness movement merges with the food world. This includes a greater attention to ingredients and labels at the grocery store, and to restaurants that cater to every diet and allergy. People are becoming more and more concerned with exactly what they consume, and, whatever choice they make as to what is right, will be spending much more time making sure their bites match their beliefs.
- Bowls, Bowls, all Types of Bowls: I don’t know why putting everything in a bowl is so appealing, but it works on me too. Expect to see more bowls everywhere this year: grain bowls, cauliflower bowls, lentil bowls, and greens bowls. Probably the only bowl that won’t have a good year is the old bread bowl.
- Tiny Menus: There was a time when restaurants tried to capture every guest by offering a huge menu with something for everyone. In 2018, we expect to see more restaurants with tight, focused menus. It’s better to focus on doing one or two things in the best possible way, without trying to make everybody happy. This helps keep costs down and enables a clear brand identity. There are, of course, some obvious examples in the sandwich and burger-and-fries world, but we’ve also seen a great concept built around serving only meatballs.
So there you have it. We can’t wait to see what this year has in store – or on the menu. If 2018 is your year to launch your dream concept – perhaps using some of these 2018 trends – reach out to the Blue Orbit Team! We’d love to make your 2018 dream a reality.