Optimizing Your Restaurant Menu in 2024 to Meet Changing Consumer Preferences
It’s a challenge for many restaurant operators to transform their menus to meet changing consumer preferences while remaining in alignment with their brand. As a new year begins, many are looking closely at what flavors and dishes are popular and how to incorporate these in a unique and brand-loyal manner.
Of course, many preferences are carrying over from 2023. Healthy options, personalization, and sustainability are still big-time considerations for calling in today’s customers.
Let’s look at how restaurants are redefining their menus as 2024 takes hold.
Stews & Soups Redefined
The National Restaurant Association’s 2024 Culinary Forecast found comfort foods still in high demand. Stews and soups meet the requirement of warm and delicious soothing foods reminiscent of shared meals with family during the dead of winter. They also allow chefs to experiment with the global flavors that continue to call in the crowds.
One of the top trending dishes in this category is Tom Kha Gai Soup, also known as Thai Coconut Chicken Soup, a blend of chicken, chilies, lemongrass, shiitake mushrooms, galangal, and coconut milk. Another is Laksa, from Southeast Asia, a dish with numerous variations. A popular concoction consists of a spicy coconut soup base topped with rice noodles and chicken, prawn, or fish.
The other checkboxes these menu items can fill are the health-conscious option and the ability to adapt to changing consumer behavior due to economic conditions.
The depth and complexity of fiery condiments and all things spicy are still in full force. Some of the top contenders as the new year begins include African-inspired chili oils, Gochujang, also known as Korean red chili paste, Calamansi, otherwise known as Philippine limes, and Tkemali, a tangy Georgian plum sauce.
Tajín is still expected to be among the top flavors. This Mexican spice is made with chili peppers, lime juice, and sea salt. The New York Times called Tajín a lifestyle. While it started as a seasoning to enhance fruit like mangos and pineapples, it’s become an everywhere condiment. It’s used as a rimmer for Bloody Marys, an extra kick in margaritas, a marinade for meats and poultry, and sprinkled over the Mexican street corn known as Elote.
Social Media Influences
In 2023, TikTok made a significant impact on restaurant menus and that influence is still being felt. Some of the top trending items were tinned seafood, cucumber chili crunch salad, the Turkish egg dish known as Cilbir, and chopped Italian sandwiches. As 2024 unfolds, keep a watchful eye on this social media platform with a powerful influence.
Going Specific and Regional
Regional foods have been making their mark and will be front and center on menus in 2024. Examples include Sinaloa mariscos, Jalisco tortas ahogadas, and laap, the national dish of Laos. While many renditions, one variety of this salad-like dish consists of meat or fish along with lime juice, herbs like mint and cilantro, garlic, chilies, and ground toasted rice.
Menu items from Venezuela are also in the news and include arepas and guasacaca. These dishes translate to griddle-cooked corn cakes served with Venezuelan guacamole incorporating avocado, lime, peppers, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, parsley, rice vinegar, and olive oil, or some variation thereof.
As shared with TIME by the head of food and drink at WGSN, the trend-forecasting company, Claire Lancaster said, “This new generation of chefs is creating products that reflect their unique, multi-layered cultural identities.”
When Wilfried Bergerjausen, the culinary director of the RMD Group in San Diego, spoke with TODAY, he mentioned “mindful indulgence” as a transformative trend in 2024. “This concept transcends mere dining; it’s about celebrating affordable luxury, where the simplicity of daily meals is elevated to gourmet heights through creativity and conscientious care.”
This trend is about small tastes of luxury that make these once over-the-top items affordable. Think dishes with a touch of caviar. Then, think sustainable caviar. Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch lists caviar that’s farmed using indoor recirculating aquaculture systems in the U.S. as a “Best Choice.”
And we’ve only scratched the surface. One way to keep an eye on what’s trending in your area and across the nation is through F&B Insights. This platform lets you leverage nationwide market intelligence, giving you access to local and national menus. Check on trending items and changing prices 24/7, and keep all your competitors’ menus in one place. You can even receive alerts whenever there’s a change.
Are you ready to embrace the changing landscape of 2024? It’s definitely ready for you.