2016 was a strange year for a lot of people all over the globe, with a lot of change. Through it all, though, people have continued to eat. And the world’s leading scientists all agree that this will continue during 2017 and beyond. People will be eating for the foreseeable (and distant) future, these scientists say, mainly because we have to.
This is good news for the restaurant industry, but it’s not enough to guarantee success.
Just because food is a necessity doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy eating it. Tastes and preferences change, and restaurateurs need to be aware of the trends going on around them. This doesn’t mean they need to jump on every bandwagon that rolls through town, but having an awareness of what diners want is never a bad thing. Maybe it inspires a new menu idea, or illustrates a better way to run your business. Maybe you learn a better way to market yourself. Perhaps you shut the whole thing down and start from scratch. We don’t know.
What we do know are that these 2017 food trends are going to be huge. And we’re going to share that with you right now:
1. Veggies With a Side of Veggies
Meat consumption continues to decline, but the popularity of plant-based meat lookalikes shows that it’s not because people don’t like the taste. Or texture.
Restaurant consulting firm Baum + Whiteman point out the near-immediate success of products like Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger, and the proliferation of plant butcher shops, as a sign of things to come.
Impossible Foods and the Herbivorous Butcher are already doing steady wholesale business with restaurants, and Brooklyn still exists, so expect plant-based protein to really take off as one of 2017’s food trends.
2. Dessert at Breakfast
Back in May, researchers at Syracuse University in New York published a study suggesting that chocolate intake is linked with better cognitive function. Actually, there’s no shortage of studies on the benefits of chocolate.
There’s also this study that concludes eating dessert at breakfast can actually promote weight loss. Liz Moskow, the Culinary Director for the Sterling-Rice Group, thinks this is a perfect storm of opportunity to seize on, and sees brunch and breakfast restaurants offering chocolate-heavy dessert menus at breakfast.
Referring to the Syracuse study, she said, “The thought was eating chocolate better prepares you for your workday, so what better meal to incorporate dark chocolate into?”
3. Restaurants Without Seats
Perhaps you read that phrase and thought of food trucks, but that’s not what Baum + Whiteman had in mind when they made this prediction.
Instead, they’re talking about the impact of mobile tech on restaurants. With technology making it possible to make and take food orders anywhere, this is an idea whose time has come. The seatless restaurant is simply a full-scale commercial kitchen—with chefs and line cooks and maybe sauciers—and no dining area. Instead, the meals are delivered to diners at their homes. No, we’re not talking about take-out.
Customers are ordering a meal, made-to-order in talent-rich kitchens with fresh ingredients and very low overhead.
4. Chef-run Fast Casual Concepts
Quickserve restaurants continue to be the fastest growing segment in the industry, and the latest twist scales the concept down to a single location.
Most fast-casual restaurants start as or aim to be a chain, but this concept turns that on its head. The National Restaurant Association predicts more upper echelon chefs will create fast-casual versions of their creative vision.
The fare is what you’d expect—burgers, sandwiches, salads, and sides—but elevated to new heights.
5. Locally Sourced Ingredients
This one gets on the list every year, it seems, and that’s a good thing.
Locally sourced ingredients of any kind are always a good idea. They’re fresher, taste better, easier on the environment, and they put money back into communities rather than the banks of big time food distributors.
We almost didn’t put this on the list this year, just to make room for something new, but that’s a silly reason. The fact is, people are becoming increasingly more educated about where their food is sourced, and they want the same from their favourite restaurants.
6. Waste Not, Want Not
Food waste is a big problem for the restaurant industry—and the world. Some chefs around the world are beginning to get clever about the way they reduce waste. Steven Satterfield, a chef in Atlanta, GA, works with an organisation called the Chef’s Collaborative teaching ways to creatively reduce waste.
He suggests things like using corn cobs and garlic/onion peels for making stock, redirecting carrot greens from the trash into a pesto, and frying carrot peels to use as garnish. But Dana Gunders, a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council has a more direct suggestion: don’t have extra food to begin with.
If only there were a good way to track wastage and prevent overbuying in the future.
7. Taking it From the Streets
In a weird circle of life kind of situation, street food started coming into restaurant kitchens as a 2017 food trend just as celebrated chefs were taking their creations out on the road in food trucks.
It’s easy to see why: street food is generally quick and easy to prepare, and it’s fun for chefs to put their own spin on classics like dumplings, tacos, and kebabs.
But, really, street food has more to do with attitude and image than anything else; it doesn’t matter where you made the taco. It’s going to be delicious. Even the phrase “street food” conveys an impression of something less refined and more authentic. Consider it a rebuke of the artisinal sandwiches and hand-crafted nachos of the world.
If you love alcoholic beverages, but hate the feeling of being relaxed and friendly, you’re in luck.
Mocktails continue to rise in popularity. Many restaurants offer their own mashups of juices, soda, herbs, spices, and aromatics, for a refreshing cocktail without the kick.
In New York City, two star Michelin restaurant Atera even offers a “temperance pairing” options for their tasting menu.
9. Middle-Eastern Flavours
Back at Sterling-Rice, they’re predicting a rise in middle-eastern food, notably from places like Afghanistan and Syria.
It’s not a particularly happy reason for this trend—the cause is the mass emigration of people fleeing their war-torn homes. As more and more refugees make their way through the world’s systems, and get settled, entirely new food cultures are being introduced to westerners.
Soon the world will have a better understanding of middle-eastern cuisine beyond shawarma and falafel.
10. Munching for Munchies
In the US at least, Forbes magazine is predicting 2017 to be the year edible cannabis goes mainstream.
Now legal in nine states, and underground haute dining experiences showing up even where it isn’t, Forbes reports foods cooked in cannabutter showing up on menus across the country. They predict cannabis to be a $22 billion industry by 2020, with a significant chunk of that coming from food sales.
This is one trend that’s not going to be ubiquitous, for obvious reasons, but underground cultures have a way of propagating. Chances of this one taking off are super high.