We know 2016 is half over, but its restaurants trends are still kicking! How many have you tried so far? Before the year is over, satisfy your trends buds with 2016 top restaurant trends.
1. Fast, Casual and Delicious
In 2016, look for new casual restaurants with mouthwatering food that’s quick to serve and not too expensive. On the wheels of food truck phenomenon and made-to-order restaurants like Chipotle®, time-starved diners are demanding higher quality for abbreviated lunches and quick dinners…and the industry is listening!
While this trend won’t replace high-end dining, restaurants are rethinking their efforts to offer upscale burgers, fantastic fried chicken (a trend on its own!), vegetable-forward dishes, innovative sushi, inventive noodles, gourmet pizzas and items that taste amazing…in an amazingly short amount of time. You can practically hear diners cheer. Fast food is out. Fast casual is in!
2. Fantastic Fried Chicken
There’s nothing like an all-American favorite prepared to perfection. In fact, there is a full-blown obsession with fried chicken across the nation. And restaurants are adding their own twist with signature wings, sandwiches and, of course, main dishes with all the fixin’s.
This trend is all about chicken’s versatility. There are so many ways to make it soar—and so many ways for chefs and casual restaurants to add their signature.
Look for home-style ingredients that include buttermilk, cayenne pepper and honey. Explore recipes inspired by cuisines from Nashville, Korea and Morocco. And check out reinterpreted side dishes that are sure follow, from waffles and cornbread to slaw and beans.
3. Sriracha-Inspired Fare
Last year, restaurants worked to create their own version of Sriracha, the spicy sauce with the red rooster on the bottle. This year, the sauce’s nationwide popularity has inspired restaurants to add bolder, more assertive flavors to their menus.
Watch for an influx of Middle Eastern spices, including cumin, curry and Za’atar (a combination of sesame, sumac and thyme). India brings ghost peppers, one of the hottest peppers on earth. And Africa brings exotic flavors like harissa, dukkah and tsire to meats and breads.
4. Ethnic Mashups
Admit it, you are always looking for something new…yet familiar. This year, you’ll be happy to find an influx of fusion cuisine. Think Mexican tacos filled with Korean kimchi, hamburgers served on a crunchy Ramen noodle bun and pizza that uses curry sauce instead of tomato.
You’ll also see this mashup influence in sauces offered with favorite comfort foods. You might try hot dogs with a spicy chimichurri sauce or sliders with Mexican mole.
5. Hyper Local Sourcing
Watch for chefs who plant deeper local roots and build on the farm-to-fork trend of 2015. Restaurant gardens, farm-fresh meats and ingredients from local farmers’ markets will become more prevalent—and may even replace organically grown ingredients.
To keep control over cost, taste and origin, more restaurants will create made-from-scratch signature items. In the kitchen, some chefs may take this one step beyond and embrace “nose-to-tail” and “root-to-stalk” cooking, utilizing as much of the ingredients—in as many dishes—as possible.
This growing movement will also appeal to diners who desire to eat “clean” with non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), chemical-free ingredients. We also think this local movement will create more environmental sustainability from restaurants, which is good news for everyone.
6. Less is More
Small plates, tapas, tasting menus, dim sum, finger foods…no matter what restaurants call it, we call it a taste-friendly trend that lets diners explore menus, share (if they want to) and try new things without committing to a main course.
Sharing small plates sparks conversations. Plus, a few small plates at the end of a hectic day are a perfect way to relax with friends and colleagues.
For the health-conscious, small plates offer up a nice variety of flavors without the large-portion temptation. On the other hand, smaller portions can also take the place of appetizers for multi-course meals.
Whether you want to eat light or extravagantly, watch for this exciting trend at a variety of establishments, from upscale restaurants to more casual places.
7. Simplifying Technology
This is the year of high-speed food delivery and guest-facing technology.
Tech giants, including Amazon Prime, Google and UberEats, are releasing delivery smartphone apps that let diners get quick delivery from just about any restaurant—even places that don’t typically offer it. While this trend is exciting, we’re curious to see if these high-speed delivery services influence the quality or choices offered…but we’re convinced that this is a trend diners will be excited to try.
When you do dine out, look for new guest-facing technology to streamline the ordering experience. More and more restaurants are using kiosks or tablets at the table to take orders, they’re also offering apps to pre-order and keep track of loyalty points.
As restaurant insiders, we’re excited to share our take of the top 2016 trends with you. We hope that you get to try them all…and wish you a very tasty New Year!