The National Restaurant Association (NRA) annually explores the top menu trends for the coming year. For this year’s What’s Hot culinary forecast, the NRA surveyed nearly 1,600 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) – to find which foods, beverages and culinary themes will be hot on restaurant menus in 2016.
Top 20 food trends for 2016:
- Locally sourced meats and seafood
- Chef-driven fast-casual concepts
- Locally grown produce
- Hyper-local sourcing
- Natural ingredients/minimally processed food
- Environmental sustainability
- Healthful kids’ meals
- New cuts of meat
- Sustainable seafood
- House-made/artisan ice cream
- Ethnic condiments/spices
- Authentic ethnic cuisine
- Farm/estate branded items
- Artisan butchery
- Ancient grains
- Ethnic-inspired breakfast items
- Fresh/house-made sausage
- House-made/artisan pickles
- Food waste reduction/management
- Street food/food trucks
“True trends evolve over time, especially when it comes to lifestyle-based choices that extend into other areas of our everyday life,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association. “Chefs and restaurateurs are in tune with over-arching consumer trends when it comes to menu planning, but add their own twist of culinary creativity to drive those trends in new directions. No one has a better view into the window of the future of food trends than the culinary professionals who lead our industry.”
“We are excited to see how foodservice establishments will incorporate these culinary trends for 2016,” said Thomas Macrina, CEC, CCA, AAC, national president, American Culinary Federation. “Chefs enjoy being creative and many of these trends give them the ability to do what they love: make fresh, delicious food for people to enjoy.”
The top trends in food also extend to the bar, with the hottest alcohol trends including locally produced and craft beer, wine and spirits.
When asked which current food trend has grown the most over that last decade, 44 percent of the chefs surveyed said local sourcing. Looking forward, 41 percent said the trend that will grow the most in the next 10 years is environmental sustainability.
Menu items that gained in trendiness since last year’s survey include African flavors, authentic ethnic cuisine, ethnic condiments/spices, house-made/artisan soft drinks, Middle Eastern flavors and non-traditional liquors. Items that lost momentum include underutilized fish, kale salads, fresh beans/peas, gluten-free cuisine, quinoa and flower essence in cocktails.
The NRA surveyed 1,575 American Culinary Federation members in September 2015, asking them to rate 221 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite” on menus in 2016.