Top trends for the US restaurant industry

What are the hot trends in the US restaurant industry? Sam Facchini analyses

The National Restaurant Association surveyed nearly 1,300 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) – and produced its famous annual report What’s Hot in 2014. With the US restaurant industry sales reaching $1.8bn on a typical day in 2013, the market is the place to discover new trends, exciting technologies and breakthrough innovations. Read about these trends below and meet the trendsetters and test their products and solutions at NRA Show 2014. So, what are the hottest trends for 2014?

The five items that gained most in trendiness since last year’s survey were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine. Other trends that gained importance when compared to 2011 are hybrid desserts, kale salads and natural sweeteners.

When it comes to technology, chefs ranked menus on tablet computers as the top trend, followed by smartphone apps for consumers (ordering, reservations, daily deals, etc.), smartphone apps for chefs (recipes, table management, POS tracking, etc.), mobile payment and social media marketing.

Compared with five years ago, items that remained in the top 20 food trends include locally grown produce, healthful kids’ meals, gluten-free cuisine, sustainable seafood, and health/nutrition. These have transcended the US market and reached global center stage. Chefs expect these trends to be key ingredients to success even 10 years from now.

“True trends – as opposed to temporary fads – show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time, and focus on the provenance of various food and beverage items, unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented, as well as the dietary profiles of those meals.” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group.

The five items with the highest ranking as a waning trend for 2014 were foam/froth/air, bacon-flavored chocolate, fish offal, gazpacho, and fun-shaped children’s items. The five items with the largest drop in “hot trend” rating were Greek yoghurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat, grass-fed beef, and organic coffee.

Items that have dropped substantially down the list from the top 20 food trends in 2009 include gelato, micro-greens, flatbreads, tapas/meze/dim sum, and dessert flights.

In addition, the What’s Hot in 2014 survey predicted that the top five alcohol and cocktail trends for 2014 will be micro-distilled/artisan spirits, locally produced beer/wine/spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients), and regional signature cocktails.

These and many other restaurant industry trends will be showcased at the 2014 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, to be held on 17-20 May at Chicago’s McCormick Place. NRA Show is the largest single gathering of restaurant, foodservice and lodging professionals. The event attracts 60,000+ attendees and visitors from more than 100 countries, and showcases the latest products, services, innovative ideas, up-to-the-minute information about trends and issues and other growth opportunities than any other industry event.

For more information, visit the Show website.

Sam Facchini is National Restaurant Association 2014 Convention Chair and co-founder and co-owner of Metro Pizza 

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