Thai Rolled Ice Cream and Sustainable Seafood Among ‘What’s Hot’ for Menu Trends in 2018

The Washington, DC-based National Restaurant Association has released its annual survey of 700 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) – to predict food and beverage trends at restaurants in the coming year. The annual “What’s Hot” list gives a peak into which food, beverages and culinary concepts will be the new items on restaurant menus that everyone is talking about in 2018.

According to the survey, menu trends that will be heating up in 2018 include doughnuts with non-traditional filling, ethnic-inspired kids’ dishes, farm/estate-branded items, and heritage-breed meats. Trends that are cooling down include artisan cheeses, heirloom fruits and vegetables, and house-made charcuterie.

whats hot 2018 culinary forecast

Top 20 Food Trends

  1. New cuts of meat (e.g. shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak, Merlot cut)
  2. House-made condiments
  3. Street food-inspired dishes (e.g. tempura, kabobs, dumplings, pupusas)
  4. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items (e.g. chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes)
  5. Sustainable seafood
  6. Healthful kids' meals
  7. Vegetable carb substitutes (e.g. cauliflower rice, zucchini spaghetti)
  8. Uncommon herbs (e.g. chervil, lovage, lemon balm, papalo)
  9. Authentic ethnic cuisine
  10. Ethnic spices (e.g. harissa, curry, peri peri, ras el hanout, shichimi)
  11. Peruvian cuisine
  12. House-made/artisan pickles
  13. Heritage-breed meats
  14. Thai-rolled ice cream
  15. African flavors
  16. Ethnic-inspired kids' dishes (e.g. tacos, teriyaki, sushi)
  17. Donuts with non-traditional filling (e.g. liqueur, Earl Grey cream)
  18. Gourmet items in kids' meals
  19. Ethnic condiments (e.g. sriracha, sambal, chimichurri, gochujang, zhug)
  20. Ancient grains (e.g. kamut, spelt, amaranth, lupin)

Top 10 Concept Trends

  1. Hyper-local (e.g. restaurant gardens, onsite beer brewing, house-made items
  2. Chef-driven fast casual concepts
  3. Natural ingredients/clean menus
  4. Food waste reduction
  5. Veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine (e.g. fresh produce is star of the dish)
  6. Environmental sustainability
  7. Locally sourced meat and seafood
  8. Locally sourced produce
  9. Simplicity/back to basics
  10. Farm/estate-branded items

“Local, vegetable-forward, and ethnic-inspired menu items will reign supreme in the upcoming year. Guests are implementing these trends in their own lifestyles and want to see them reflected on restaurant menus. In response, chefs are creating more items in-house and turning to global flavors,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association.

“Chefs strive to strike the right balance between offering consumers what they want to eat now and guiding them toward new and exciting culinary frontiers," said ACF National President Stafford T. DeCambra. “ACF chefs dedicate countless hours to continuing education and professional development to stay at the forefront of culinary innovation, allowing them to respond to and redefine diners’ expectations in an ever-changing foodservice landscape.”

The National Restaurant Association conducted the survey in October and November, asking those polled to rate 161 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite” on menus in the coming year.
For complete survey results published in the “What’s Hot 2018 Culinary Forecast", visit the website of the National Restaurant Association.


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