Many of this year’s hottest food and restaurant trends are efforts that stem from seeds sowed in previous years, from the ongoing quest to cut artificial ingredients from menus to the rise in retail restaurants aimed at encouraging shoppers to linger longer, according to Baum + Whiteman’s 2016 forecast.
This year’s restaurant menus are taking the quest for “clean” ingredients to a new level, with chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts simplifying recipes and touting their short ingredient lists. The trend and other health-focused movements ranked high, including the growing move toward veggie-centric plates and vegetarian meals.
Pasta sales have dipped across the globe during the past five years, including a 6% dip in the US, as consumers have cut carbs and gluten, the report says. In response, chefs are creating spaghetti-shaped “noodles” from veggies including zucchini, beets and sweet potatoes, and they’re also working produce-based purees into pasta dough to add a veggie kick to traditional pasta.
The report also highlights a growing crop of veggie-centric eateries, including Al’s Place in San Francisco, which lists most of its meat dishes on the sides menu, and Vedge in Philadelphia and Dirt Candy in New York City, which serve plant-based dishes designed to please the most discerning of foodies.
Other culinary trends highlighted include modern versions of Jewish food and other “heritage cuisines,” which is playing out at places like General Muir in Atlanta, Zak the Baker in Miami and and Shaya, a “modern Israeli” eatery in New Orleans that was named Esquire’s restaurant of the year.
One of the major trends on the operations side that’s outlined in the report is the surge in restaurants operated by retailers, a movement that’s also highlighted in this week’s Robin Report, in a piece that ponders the question “Can Food Save American Retailing?” The blog post focuses on the tradition of department store restaurants that were once part of the shopping experience, and wonders whether today’s retail restaurants can revive the tradition and give consumers a reason to visit stores in the age of online shopping.
“Is there any girl (and some boys, too) who grew up in New York and doesn’t have fond memories of their mother taking them to Charleston Gardens at B. Altman? Or any of the tearooms/restaurants in the venerable old department stores in the Midwest where lunch with mom included informal modeling?” the writer asks.
Retailers from Saks Fifth Avenue to Target are exploring a phenomenon that theme parks and museums have long understood, according to Baum + Whiteman, which first remarked on the trend in 2014. “Retailers, we said, were discovering what we call the magic of ‘dwell time’ … the longer you keep a shopper on the premises, the more the shopper will buy per hour of stay,” the report says.
A growing number of retailers tout their food offerings to coax consumers to return, including Bass Pro Shops’ Islamorada Fish Co. restaurants. Urban Outfitters is upping its game with new eateries from celebrity chefs including Marc Vetri and Michael Symon. Restoration Hardware has three Chicago restaurants and plans for a hotel and restaurant around the corner from the site of a new store in New York City’s Meatpacking District.
“Look for lots more of this activity … in bowling alleys, clothing stores, movie theaters, convenience stores, supermarkets … since restaurants provide unique social experiences that consumers can’t enjoy by clicking ‘buy’ on their smartphones,” the report says.
Baum + Whiteman concludes the report with a list of this year’s hottest culinary buzzwords, including:
- burnt vegetables
- Nashville Hot Chicken
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