Want an insider’s peek into hot restaurant food trends in 2014? Curious if your local eatery will soon be featuring menu items you’ve never tried before? As it turns out, there’s both fun new discoveries and some familiar favorites ready for you in the New Year. So take a moment to find out what 2014 holds in store for your stomach with Restaurant.com’s 2014 Food Trend Predictions.
The Dish went straight to the source on this: our resident trend-guru, Restaurant.com President and CMO Christopher Krohn. From the simple (eggs!) to super (kale!), here’s what this restaurant-watcher predicts will grace your plate next year.
1. Egg-cellent Adventures – In 2014, you won’t be asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. If you’re like many Americans, you’ll be seeing and eating a lot more heuvos in restaurants in 2014. In part, this is about chefs starting to top your favorite foods with eggs – burgers and pizza, for example. In addition, Krohn predicts we’ll see this breakfast staple appearing on menu items like turkey sandwiches, casseroles, and pasta plates. Eggs are versatile, nutritious and can be worked into lots of dishes, such as salads and stir-fries. The “breakfast for dinner” craze and increasing popularity of regional specialties like Korean Bibimbop and Mexican Heuvos Rancheros will accelerate this trend. Plus, there’s an emerging sense from the scientific crowd that eggs are healthier than perhaps you previously thought, which will feed consumer interest in this farm-fresh favorite. All in all, 2014 will be the year of the egg, so you might as well get cracking!
2.Farm to Fork – This trend began last year, when 62 percent of Restaurant.com restaurants reported they’d feature locally sourced produce in 2013. In 2014, the farm-to-table trend will accelerate, driven by diners’ growing eco-awareness and their desire for the wholesome simplicity of homestyle cooking and minimally-processed foods. Riding this wave, restaurants are returning to their predecessors’ roots, sourcing fresh produce and natural ingredients and cooking them up in a style that more closely resembles the authentic recipes that graced grandma’s kitchen table than modern, industrial food products. Beyond simply featuring “free range chicken,” some serious chefs now work with local farms to tailor their menus to seasonally available fruits and vegetables. This trend appeals to health conscious consumers looking to cut back on food additives and carbon imprints, as well as to stressed-out city slickers seeking a simple culinary escape. For examples of this trend, look for fresh-baked biscuits, locally produced cheeses, egg dishes (see previous trend), honey-sweetened desserts, and beef alternatives such as rabbit, lamb, and dark-meat poultry on more menus in 2014.
3.Tea Time, All the Time – Once confined primarily to Asian restaurants, green tea is an increasingly popular beverage and ingredient choice in restaurants across the U.S. In fact, Krohn predicts that items like green tea cupcakes, sorbets and macaroons will soon be popping up in local bakeries. In 2014, we’ll also see menu items that use other teas for novel and surprising purposes. For example, ground teas like matcha and chai can be used as dry rubs and marinades for beef, chicken or veggies. Tea-smoked salmon and pork will both make headway in the New Year, and English-style tea-time gatherings at local cafes will also be big. Add to that tea’s traditional role as a popular beverage choice (sweet tea will be inescapable in restaurants this summer), and it’s easy to see why this ancient ingredient is a frontrunner for 2014 fame.
4. Bread-y When You Are – In addition to the farm-friendly biscuit, Krohn expects bread variety to be another hot menu trend in 2014. Americans are re-thinking their relationship with this staple, and the role of bread in our diets is changing rapidly even as the bread choices available to diners continues to multiply. (Or should we say rise?) As a result, bakeries have become a key driver of the aforementioned farm-style food movement. And many restaurants have begun baking their own artisan breads in house, livening up sandwiches and burgers with special loaves, from chiabatta, to challah, to pretzel. With options like brisket on brioche, pesto-drizzled croutons, and Paninis on sundried tomato focaccia, bread will get featured on American menus in variety like never before in 2014.
5. It’s A Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s…SuperKale? Even if the foods in this trend won’t make you capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound, they’re still Super Foods! You’ve probably heard the buzz about 2013’s salad darling, kale, but there may be others on this vitamin “A Team” you haven’t yet discovered. Some Super Foods were historically uncommon visitors to the nation’s restaurant tables, like pomegranate, quinoa and flax seeds. Others are traditional menu items that diners are re-discovering as members of the Super Food swat team. Sweet potatoes, salmon, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, beets and shrimp all make this list. As with the aforementioned Farm to Fork trend, Krohn notes it turns out that grandma really did know best! But where do these foods’ super powers come from? Chefs everywhere are taking notes on three super categories : Power-packed veggie-based phytonutrients (found in such delectables as squash, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, kale, sweet potatoes and broccoli); disease-fighting antioxidants (coming from a variety of tasty treats, such as pomegranates, beets, tea, cinnamon, chocolate, and cauliflower); and healthy Omega-3s (from salmon, shrimp, quinoa and nuts, to name a few). Grandma may not have understood the science behind these Super Foods, but our prediction is that you’ll find a proliferation of these nutritional darlings on restaurant menus in 2014 in dishes such as sweet potato fries, beet salads and creamed kale.
6. Yes, we DO want Fries with that! – Restaurant operators know their diners crave comfort foods too, not just ultra-healthy fare. And so for 2014 that American food favorite, French fries, will get yet another makeover as restaurants work to find even more ways to serve us all salty potato treats. Krohn cites the recent popularity of duck fat fries, truffle fries and an expanding variety of custom fry seasonings as signs the nation’s fryers will be working full-tilt all year long. Chefs are experimenting with new fry toppings as well, like teriyaki mayo, herbed goat cheese crumbles, and spicy sriracha sauce (see the related trend for more on chili sauce). Also, keep a look out for the Canadian “delicacy” called poutine – fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. We won’t tell if you don’t!
7. Mediterranean Everything — Krohn’s next prediction takes us to the Mediterranean, an area whose culinary traditions have gained ever-increasing popularity in the U.S. in recent years. The delicious appeal of the Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats, has spurred its expansion here in America and we expect to see that expand even more in 2014. In addition, Americans are exploring beyond familiar French and Italian fare, and starting to sample the rich cuisines of other Mediterranean cultures. Dishes from places like Lebanon, Turkey, and Morocco will make more frequent menu appearances this year. A good number of Americans will experience their first restaurant meal a la Tagine in 2014! Meanwhile, the Greek yogurt craze shows no sign of stopping, and chefs are capitalizing on this by introducing more traditional Greek dishes to their own restaurant’s fare. So don’t be surprised if sometime this year the Mediterranean trend intersects with the previous one on your plate in the form of Tzatziki-sauce for your fries!
8. Chili Sauce is Hot Hot Hot – If 2013 was the year of the cronut, 2014 will be the year of the sauce, Krohn says. More specifically, chili sauce, in all its spicy, glorious forms will come to prominence. Sriracha made a splash onto the news pages — and chef’s hot lists — this past year, so in 2014 keep an eye out for Harissa, a Tunisian chili sauce found in some Mediterranean dishes, as well as Gochujang, a Korean hot bean paste. Sweet-spicy Jamaican Jerk sauce will likely cover your fries sometime in the New Year (see related trend), and Chinese chili paste may just find its way to a dumpling dish near you. The use of Buffalo wing sauce to flavor menu items will continue to expand in popularity (if that’s even possible!) and of course the nation’s love affair with Mexican cuisine will put even more bottles of Cholula, Valentina, Castillo and other favorite brands on the table in 2014. To which we can only say: “¡Delicioso!”
Getting hungry? You’ve got a whole year of delicious dining ahead of you. Visit Restaurant.com to start scoping out the best places to taste these new trends!