The restaurant industry is nothing if not adaptable. It’s the price of staying up with our customers’ ever-evolving tastes and preferences as well as a changing economy. When the demand for delivery continued even after the pandemic shut-downs ended—we answered. When those who grew up in a digital world wanted online connections—we answered. And as technology advanced and customers saw the benefits—we answered.
It’s a lot to keep up with, particularly when your 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. day often morphs into a 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. marathon. It’s hard enough to manage the everyday affairs of a restaurant, let alone keep up with changing restaurant menus and what items are catapulting to fame. As fall approaches, let’s catch up on some of the top restaurant trends continuing to make a mark in the industry.
Sharing Authentic Food
One must wonder if the hand sanitizers and social distancing of the pandemic played a part in propelling us into shared food. Today, distancing has been replaced with shared meals, enjoying friends and family while experiencing chefs’ authentic regional flavors. Shared meals may come in the form of family dining, tapas, or small plates.
You’ve probably memorized the phrase “authentic regional flavors.” It’s a trend that’s not going away. In fact, it’s only gaining traction. Experiencing food enhanced with a specific region’s spices and created using traditional cooking techniques is hot. Very hot.
One note of caution. If you search online, you’ll find several sites suggesting small plates should go the way of the Dodo. Why? Because they went to restaurants that didn’t serve enough food to, well, share.
Proxi in Chicago is a globally-inspired restaurant from chef Andrew Zimmerman. It provides a small plate menu focused on flavor-forward street food like coal-roasted sea scallops, wagyu rib yakitori, and grilled Berkshire pork collar.
On the opposite end of the dining experience is the tasting menu. These consist of multiple courses served in small amounts. Today, you’ll find tasting menus offering six courses and others up to 30. They’re carefully curated and designed to give a guest the enjoyment of discovering a chef’s many skills and how they artfully combine ingredients and flavor profiles.
Restauranteurs debated whether the tasting menu would survive as the desire for elaborate multicourse meals seemed to wane. If done right, tasting menus can offer the ultimate experience your guests crave. Food lovers and bloggers will travel to great lengths to document and sample a notoriously good-tasting menu.
An example of a tasting menu done right is March in Houston. Diners can choose from six or nine courses on an ever-evolving menu that explores the many regions of the Mediterranean. Optional wine pairings come from an 11,000-bottle cellar.
The Unique Dining Experience
One must be over-the-top creative to find a unique, one-of-a-kind dining experience that hasn’t already been “experienced.” Right? We’ve covered eating in the dark to enhance the other senses. Creative entrepreneurs offer dining under the sea, in the sky, by volcanoes, and even in trees. Where do we go from here?
Sometimes, an experience is defined by where products come from and how they’re harvested. For instance, HAOMA in Bangkok features 200 meters of vertical farming supported by composting and solid waste recycling. At their organic farm, they raise over 750 chickens, 4 cows, and 12 goats. Their wine comes from small farmers who practice organic and biodynamic viticulture.
They use aquaponics to grow herbs, fruits, vegetables, and fish onsite. (Yes, fish). And they conserve over 150,000 liters of rainwater a year that’s used in their aquaponics farm and for guests. They also recycle 100% of their organic waste, with 70% turning into compost and 30% converted into fish food. They’ve created a program that teaches Burmese migrants and refugees cooking skills to help them find employment.
Now that’s unique.
Outdoor Dining Year Round
Who knew outdoor dining could be offered 365 days a year in the northern reaches of the U.S.? Who knew? Another gift from the pandemic, diners are requesting al fresco dining even as summer turns to fall, no matter the weather. Resy, the online restaurant reservation service, found 113 different names that restaurants in New York City gave their outdoor tables. These included secret gardens, heated chalets, and yurts.
From mushrooms replacing meat to smart tables that let customers order and pay for their meals, it’s an interesting time in our evolution. As the world grows smaller and seemingly more vulnerable, you can expect global food trends from the far reaches and sustainability to become increasing considerations among guests.
Are you looking for an easier way to stay up on the latest restaurant menu trends? F&B Insights offers the world’s largest menu database, giving you access to every concept, locally or on a distant shore, helping you easily explore trending patterns and prices. To learn more or try their 15-day free trial, contact F&B Insights today.
Is it important to have and use an outdoor dining space?
As more people experienced the joy of outdoor dining during the pandemic, they realized what they’d been missing all along. Now, they don’t want to give it up, even in the colder winter months. While concepts vary, offering your guests a space to dine outdoors increases your seating capacity and your customer’s experience.
What makes a great tasting menu?
Consider incorporating a chef-inspired tasting menu that focuses on different regions, drawing on their culinary expertise. Share the story that goes along with each dish, such as authentic cooking methods and its roots. And make sure each dish is uniquely plated and presented.