The beginning of the year always brings a myriad of predictions and trend forecasts from various sources in the world of food and restaurants. It can be overwhelming to read them all, so we’ve done the hard work, homing in on what’s most relevant for chefs and operators today. Explore all that the new decade brings to dining below, with expert reflections and tips to make new menus, processes, and ingredients work for you.
No- or Low-ABV Drinks
International food and restaurant consultants Baum + Whiteman single out no-alcohol and low-alcohol drinks, noting “boozeless packaged beverages are imitating the flavors of gin-and-tonics and martinis…and they’re marketing canned and bottled drinks that mimic the flavor profiles of rums, bourbons and various whiskeys.”
Nation’s Restaurant News predicts that 2020 will be all about the low-proof cocktail. In a recent survey, they found 47% of respondents over 21 are looking to decrease their alcohol intake. They expect “softer liquors” to grow more popular on restaurant menus, and sherries and port to become ingredients for low-ABV libations.
Restaurant and hospitality consultants AF&Co say, “It’s essential to offer enticing, highly curated beverage options for those who choose to avoid alcohol but still want to partake in the celebration.” They highlight non-alcoholic spirit brands and specialty spirit-free “euphorics” formulated to enhance drinking experiences. Camper English, a San Francisco-based cocktails and spirits writer, recently compiled a list of non-alcoholic spirits. “People choose not to drink for a lot of different reasons,” he says. “Leaving off non-alcoholic options from the menu or only offering sodas is just bad hospitality.”
Tip: Add both low-ABV and sophisticated non-alcoholic beverages to the menu instead of just soda and juice. English notes that customers may expect to pay less for low- and no-ABV drinks, which can be a challenge when non-alcoholic replacements are still expensive. Be hospitable to all diners, and offer them even if you need to charge the cost of a regular cocktail.
Beef is in the news again, in many different forms. Bauman + White call out lab-made meats, noting that “more than three dozen companies around the world are racing to produce beef, chicken, pork and shrimp that, they hope, will not mimic the real thing but actually be the real thing.” They also mention “old cow meat,” or the use of retired dairy cows such as Holsteins for meat. It’s something fast food chains have long done, but the practice is gaining traction at upscale restaurants as well.
In Food & Wine’s trend report, Chef Michael Lomonaco of Porter House Bar & Grill notes an increase demand for high-quality, hormone-free meat. He says that with paleo, keto, and high-protein diets on the rise, unprocessed beef presents a go-to option.
While Bauman + White calls out plant-based burgers, Nation’s Restaurant News predicts an expansion of plant-based beef beyond the patty.
Tip: Expand your beef options to cater to a range of guest preferences. Consider wagyu, plant-based meats, and high-end aged Holstein. In every circumstance, prioritize sustainable sourcing.
2020 ushers in a new era of kitchen culture. “The labor shortage has played a large role (good benefits help with employee retention), but this focus is also reflective of reverberations from the #metoo movement and an industry acknowledging – and trying to change – its storied history of anxiety, stress and drug use,” AF&Co explains.
In addition to addressing mental health issues, restaurants are increasing staff benefits, offering on-site mindfulness centers, and providing and free childcare for employees. Food & Wine quotes Cassidee Dabney, chef of Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm, who welcomes the end of “bad boy” chefs, and a new focus on health, mindful eating, sustainable foods and lifestyles, and fitness.
Kat Kinsman, senior editor at Food & Wine and founder of Chefs with Issues, says, “In the past, outward kindness and empathy may have been treated as a weakness in a kitchen, a sign of a person who wasn’t tough enough to hack it in a professional environment. Increasingly, it’s celebrated both in the industry and in the media. These kinder kitchens are the ones that will last.”
Tip: Think creatively about ways to support employees as they strive for wellness and work-life balance. Start with the resources listed in a story we shared last year: A New Kitchen Culture: Mental Health in the Restaurant Industry. [Read more…]