8 Restaurant Industry Food Trends

top food trends and consumer behavior trends in the restaurant industry for 2018

Part 1 of this 2-part series will release 5 of the 8 most recent and up-and-coming food trends that are popping up in restaurants across America.

The first quarter of 2018 starts us off with some brand new food trends we haven’t seen hit mainstream yet, some that rolled over from 2017, and some that date back to the 90’s. The data sources and experts used to generate this list include: the National Restaurant Association, Restaurant Business Magazine, the foodservice pros at Technomic, GrubHub, Pinterest and Eater.

And the countdown begins…

8. Meat Alternative and Plant-Based Entrees

There’s something about a big, juicy burger that we just seem to crave. But with the recent suggested implications of a high-meat diet and the effects of red meat on the environment, an interesting trend is noted universally in all our data sources. Entrees are taking a new plant-based approach.

After their release, these “bleeding” high-tech, plant-based burger patties sold out in Whole Foods Colorado in just one hour. They “bleed” beet juice by the way.

Along with the fake bleeding meat, consumers are also embracing straight veggie entrees. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, we can expect to see more vegetable entrees popping up. Some of these include, rotisserie cauliflower, jackfruit tacos (another fruit that seems to be on the radar), and hominy ceviche.

7. Asian Eastern Island Cuisine

The first geographic trend on the list of food trends takes us to the Eastern Island nations. The momentum has been building around Filipino foods for the last few years. Now we are also spotting influences from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

This regional food trend embodies a unique set of flavor profiles. They are the perfect combination of sour, bitter and aromatic. These foods take influence from mainland Asia and Europe – making them both familiar and exotic.

To capture this food trend in your menu, try adding ingredients such as sambal and kaffir lime. Or if you’re bold, you can add entire dishes, inspired by Southeast Asian Island hawker centers (open-air markets), like Hainanese chicken skewers and laksa.

6. Mezcal

Step aside tequila, your smoky sister, mezcal is taking the spotlight. The beverage industry is experiencing an influx of the supply of mezcal, after a spike in demand over the last several years. According to this article on 2018 Drink Trends

“Mezcal is bright and refreshing, while having a backbone of earthiness and smoke. People seem to like its heft, which rarely needs to be dressed up in a cocktail to shine.”

It’s no wonder this smoky sister is taking over. We are seeing mezcal cocktails pop up on menu across some of the nation’s trendiest cities including: Austin, Denver, Houston, New York City, and San Francisco. It’s such a hot up and coming trend that cocktail menus aren’t just including mezcal…there’s even an influx of mezcal bars that are obviously revolved around this theme.
If you’re thinking about introducing mezcal to your menu, or playing off of this theme, we recommend you read Marketing Ideas for Mexican Restaurants.

5. Pops of Color

Social media has officially taken over the restaurant industry. We are seeing a huge surge in popularity of “photo-friendly” foods. Fun, colorful foods not only feed our social media drive, but we are also attracted to colorful foods. Hence why M&Ms are colorful, and not simply all chocolate-colored.

We first saw this trend go viral with Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino, and this trend has spread like wildfire. In restaurants we are seeing this trend primarily take hold in desserts and beverages. This includes pastel ice cream, and garnishes of vibrant, edible flowers.

Where you can really use this trend is in beverages. Both cocktails and non-alcoholic bevs. We are seeing more bright colored smoothies and drinks, like bright pink prickly pear margaritas and black charcoal lemonade. Make sure you’re prepped for adding these to your menu by replacing your disposable styrofoam to-go cups with crystal clear plastic cups with your logo, so the bright color shines through.

4. Nostalgic Foods

What’s more fun on social media than Facebook memories? This new social trend is also influencing the food and restaurant industry. Even in refined places you’d least expect to see them, nostalgic foods like chicken nuggets are showing up.

Pop Rocks and edible cookie dough are becoming ice cream toppers, and potato tots are replacing hash browns. If you’re still not comfortable adding some of these pastime favorites, try introducing more upscale items to your menu like deviled eggs and meat loaf.



And the top 3 are…. in part 2! Click here to access! “The Top 3 Food Trends in Restaurants.”