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Sustainable Menu Trends To Expect This Year

Did you know there’s a Michelin “Green Star” awarding the industry’s most sustainable restaurants? And Panera lists every menu item’s carbon intensity in the same way we’d expect to see a calorie count. Considering 43% of restaurant customers will pay more for sustainability, it’s no surprise that restaurants are evolving menus to show customers they share their environmental concerns. 

Using paper straws isn’t enough. People want to see the places they spend money making an effort to reduce impact and support eco-conscious changes to our agricultural systems. That makes finding ways to sustainably source ingredients a top priority. Let’s look at how we can expect to see menus change in 2023 in response to the growing demand for sustainability.

Regenerative Farming

There’s a real fear that our agricultural system is destroying the land we depend on for food. Public demand (#SaveOurSoil) and $22 billion in federal funding for “climate-smart” food production are pushing the agricultural industry toward adopting regenerative farming practices. Regenerative farming encourages crop biodiversity, decreased pesticide use, improved soil health through holistic methods, and the reduction of carbon output. Consumers expect to see more food coming from eco-friendly farms and will pay a premium to support this movement. Likewise, restaurant professionals realize the profit potential of raising prices around sustainably sourced menu items. 

Ingredients from regenerative farms are growing in popularity. We’re seeing more restaurants using sustainable perennial grains like kernza and soil-enhancing ancient grains such as einkorn, buckwheat, and farro. Also, don’t be surprised to see menus featuring ‘regenerative meat’ sourced from livestock farmers who’ve abandoned pesticide use and practice rotational grazing methods. 

Local Sourcing

According to a report by the National Restaurant Association, 76% of adults say they’re more likely to visit a restaurant offering locally sourced food. Customers feel better about supporting the local economy and small business owners, especially when it’s also the healthier option. Additionally, people enjoy knowing where their food comes from and that it supports sustainable production methods. From the restaurant’s perspective, sourcing locally isn’t just the right thing to do from an environmental and local economic standpoint. It makes sense for their bottom line. Food from local farms enhances the taste and quality perception of menu items, allowing for price increases. It also cuts supply chain costs and minimizes disruptions which further expands profit margins. 

In 2023 we can expect more dishes featuring “freshly picked” ingredients from local farms and locally caught seafood. Restaurants will continue promoting seasonal and limited-time offers reflecting regional harvests. We’ll also continue to see the inclusion of local craft beer and wine selections on drinks menus. 

Sustainable Seafood

Consumers understand the dangers of destructive fishing practices and are willing to support businesses that source seafood responsibly. According to a 2020 study, 48% of North Americans don’t mind spending more on seafood from a certified sustainable fishery. Restaurant professionals who understand how to price menu items to maximize profit can capitalize on this trend.

We’re seeing more restaurants using seafood from regenerative sea farms that reduce impact and actively benefit the marine ecosystem. Old favorites such as clams and oysters are back on the menu in inventive ways. New ingredients like seaweed and kelp are making their way into salad and side options. Creative chefs are also minimizing waste by using the entire fish instead of just the ‘prime’ cuts and making use of sustainable fish species like sardines and mackerel. Similar to the farm-to-table trend, dock-to-dish programs supporting local, sustainable fishermen are also growing in popularity.

Eco-Spirits

With so much focus on sustainably sourced food, it’s easy to overlook the impact of alcohol. Environmentally conscious consumers, however, are aware of how important sustainability is when it comes to luxury expenses such as alcohol. Research shows that 48% of people who drink alcohol in the US take into account a company’s sustainability efforts. Beer, wine, and liquor brands are responding to this demand by reducing packaging waste, utilizing alternative energy sources for manufacturing, recycling food waste, and planting trees to sequester carbon.

Partnerships between restaurants and these eco-friendly alcohol brands have become more common. So, whether it’s promoting ‘zero waste’ beer brewed from leftover food or making cocktails with carbon-conscious spirit brands, we can expect to see more restaurants creating drink menus that highlight their efforts to support sustainability. 

Final Thoughts

Sustainability is more than a fad. It’s become a way of life that influences consumption, especially with the younger generations. Restaurants that fail to meet this growing demand risk losing business to more environmentally conscious competitors. F&B Insights can help you maximize the profits of your new, sustainably sourced dishes with AI-powered menu pricing software. At the end of the day, this shift in the direction of sustainability is a positive step toward ensuring the long-term stability of the restaurant industry’s most valuable resource–food. 

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