The year ahead: What’s on the menu for foodservice in 2024?

It’s the time of year when the wise men – and women – of foodservice tell us what’s coming down the track. Here’s a round-up of some of the predictions

The end of another year inevitably means the arrival of lists of the predicted trends, as experts get their crystal balls out to share what they expect to be top of mind – and menu – in 2024.

Part market insight, part marketing, these lists cover an unwieldy number of trends; while some take off, others don’t – whatever happened to avocado coffee going global in 2022?

What is certain is that social media plays a significant role in the making of a trend an ingredient or a restaurant that goes viral on Tik Tok or Instagram is set for official trends status.

In the US, The National Restaurant Association 2024 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast is based on the views of 1,500 culinary professionals who were surveyed in the month of October.

Here’s what the report has come up with for the coming year:

  1. World stage soups and stews (birria, chicken tom kha, laksa, salmorejo, upscale ramen)
  2. Global chicken wings    
  3. International BBQ    
  4. Incorporating social media trends (TikTok)    
  5. Grilled/cooked cheeses (provoleta, queso fundido, raclette, halloumi, juustoleipa)    
  6. Wagyu beef    
  7. Stuffed vegetables (chiles en nogada, stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage rolls)
  8. Regional menus        
  9. Streamlined menus
  10. Hot honey breakfast sandwiches

“This year’s trends are dominated by consumer craving for comfort and community with a healthy side of curiosity influenced by social media,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research for the Association. “Old favorites like BBQ are taking on new flavors and social sharing is influencing the spread of regional fares like Nashville Hot. Even the chicken competition is going global on local menus.”

Outside influences

Technomic, meanwhile, believes that the extreme weather events caused by climate changes will continue to affect restaurant sales and traffic. From availability of produce to a focus on energy usage, there will be widespread impacts on the foodservice sector as operators will have to keep a manage costs and menus.

Technology similarly will be at the center of foodservice in 2024; predictions include more advanced ordering systems, quicker innovation and artificial intelligence set to continue to play a part, both generative, such as drive-thru chatbots, and in the predictive shape, which helps manage elements such as labor, supply and marketing.

Finally, if Technomic is to be believed, the ingredient to take the limelight in 2024 will be the versatile tomato.  Along with traditional ways of using the tomato, look out for more innovative ways of using it, including in desserts and as a meat replacement.

Absent from many of the lists this year is plant-based food, which has been a strong trend in the past several years. It would seem that a plant-focused diet is now part of a mainstream that means it is no longer something to watch out for.

Tina Nielsen

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