If you’ve never heard of Sikil pak or beer smoothies, get with the program. Here are 30 mouth-watering menu ingredients that have big-time opportunity to escalate.
Bored of bone-broth or suffering from edimame ennui? Has hummus gotten ho-hum?
Maybe you’re weary of Whoppers, or had it with hash browns. Move over McMuffin, pandemic-weary, hungry Americans want to do some revenge dining, and they’re looking for the next great cocktail, taco, micro-green or amuse-bouche.
How do Nashville hot, candied bacon, beer smoothies, and CBD oil sound?
The National Restaurant Association says the foodservice industry is forecast to reach $898B in sales in 2022, up from $799 billion in 2021 and even higher than the pre-pandemic sales of $864 billion in 2019. They also report that 51% of adults say they aren’t eating at restaurants as often as they would like, which is an increase of 6 percentage points from before the pandemic. But pent-up demand for restaurant services remains high.
Restaurant operators have had to pivot from in-house to take-away during the pandemic, then readjust to supply chain problems the following year.
These days, restaurant operators are keeping an eye out for premium ingredients that are practical, popular, available and and can be obtained consistently. So to please the public and their bottom line, restaurant operators are leaning more heavily on sauces, dressings, condiments, spices, and spice blends for their versatility in both food and drinks, according to a 2022 report on menu trends by QSR and FSR magazines, which cover the quick-service and full-service restaurant industries.
Menu selections will continue to shrink in size even as operators seek to elevate the dining experience—premium and practical, but not expansive, according to the report, Making a Mark on Menus, which is sponsored by Megamex foods, a provider of prepared Mexican foods for the foodservice industry. The report uses data from Datassential, a food and beverage market-research firm.
Global cuisine is gaining ground, and younger generations are eating more meat, the report says. New herbs are on the scene and vodka is on the rise.
Are you ready to move on from cronuts and crunchwraps? Step aside celery juice; adios, acai bowl; bye bye, basque burnt cheesecake—you’re kicking kale to the curb and turning your eye toward takoyaki while taking a page from the book of bisque. Here are some trending menu items to watch for.
Herbs are on the rise. They’re easy to get or can be grown in-house and often have a good shelf-life. Some of the herbs to watch for include:
A staple in classic French cuisine, sometimes called French parsley, it’s in the same family as parsley (Apiaceae.)
This Egyptian condiment is usually a mixture of herbs, nuts, and spices. It is typically used as a dip with bread or as a topping.
Lemon balm has a subtle lemon-mint smell when crushed, it adds a citrus flavor to beverages and salads.
The round leaves and bright flowers of your garden-variety nasturtium are both decorative and edible, adding a peppery taste to salads.
A tropical plant from Southeast Asia with subtly fragrant, flavorful leaves, pandan is used for everything from flavoring water and rice to wrapping cooked meat. It grew 6% on restaurant menus last year, more than 204% over the last four years, according to Datassential.
Burnet adds tartness to sauces, soups, and salads. It tastes somewhat like cucumber.
One of the ingredients of herbes de Provence, savory is used as a seasoning for grilled meats and barbecues, as well as in stews and sauces. It’s similar to thyme and can be combined with traditional herbs for a peppery kick.
Distinctively spicy and minty; (it’s in the mint family) shisho grows well in containers. It is used in Korean, Japanese, Indian and some Chinese cuisine.
Sorrel is popular in parts of Europe and India. It adds an acidic and sour accent to fish, salads, soups and curries.
Trending Menu Items
Here’s more items that you’ll see trending strongly onto restaurant menus in the coming months, according to the QSR report.
Korean barbecue is the next fast-growing global addition. You might see it prepared on a central grill or it’s done right there on your table, shown above.
Nashville’s hot fried chicken with its spicy chile flavor has spread like wildfire with a four-year growth rate of 356%, QSR says.
Some 82% of consumers love or like bacon. Add sweet to the salty-savory, and even 11% of vegetarians and vegans say they love bacon, according to the report.
Yuba is made from the layer of cream lifted off heated soy milk, (tofu skin) according to Hodo Foods. The result is a nutrient-dense, nutty-tasting noodle that’s a popular plant-based option for soups, salads, and bowls.
Lemonade is the big one in this category. The top three non-alcoholic sips are flavored lemonades–strawberry, raspberry, and watermelon.
Alabama Barbecue Sauce
This is a Southern-style kicky version of Alfredo sauce. It’s a creamy-white, tangy, rich sauce made of mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, maybe a dash of Worcestershire or hot sauce, and other spices.
A nutty-flavored, starchy root vegetable native to South America, Cassava is one of the fastest-growing, food-forward menu additions, with a one-year growth rate of more than 46% and is on less than 1% of menus, Datassential says. Over the last four years, it saw a growth rate over 164%.
Cassava, which can be toxic if not cooked properly, is used widely around the world to make everything from alcoholic beverages and chips to cakes, cookies and bread made from its flour.
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In restaurants, CBD can be used in preparing cocktails and beers or desserts by adding a few drops. A National Restaurant Association report shows that CBD-infused foods and beverages were trending in 2019. The FDA has not regulated its use in food and beverages, but it’s offered in most states.
Datassential reports it has a four-year growth rate of more than 1,523%, but menu penetration is just 1%.
Crab bisque is an easy, accessible menu item, and readily customized.
If candied bacon isn’t enough for you, try chili, sriracha, or coffee-flavored bacon. The data says 38% of men and 27% of women are interested in eating flavored bacon, and it can stand alone or garnish any menu item from cocktails to desserts.
Gochujang red chili paste is a savory, sweet and spicy fermented condiment used in Korean cooking. Datassential reported a 20% growth in this seasoning in 2021, following a four-year growth rate of more than 179%.
House-Made Dressings, Condiments and Sauces
Original dressings, condiments, and sauces are a low-cost, simple way to add charisma to the plate.
This versatile fruit brings a plant-based, meaty texture to barbecue, rice bowls, tacos, wraps, pizza, stews and salads.
According to NPR, Jackfruit has a distinctive, musky smell, and a flavor that some describe as like Juicy Fruit gum. And they’re huge—weighing from 12 to 100 pounds.
The fast-trending noodle-based soup typically features thick rice noodles, a coconut milk or spicy broth base, and topped with chicken, prawns or fish.
Non-Dairy Ice Creams and Frozen Desserts
Made from cashew cream, coconut cream, almond cream, or an array of other non-dairy sources, more vegan frozen delicacies are appearing on menus and they have an unlimited range for creativity.
Oat Milk or Coconut Milk
Both plant-based, non-dairy alternatives, oat milk comes from whole oat grains and adds a creamy texture with a hint of oatmeal flavor. Coconut milk is derived from the pulp of mature coconuts, and has a sweeter flavor and high oil content.
Premium tequila, Irish whiskey, cordials, and single malt Scotch are favorites used not just for beverages but to infuse desserts, marinades, and other dishes.
A cost-effective menu addition, savory brittle can be used as an appetizer, bread alternative, garnish, or side.
Somewhat like guacamole and hummus, this Mayan pumpkin seed dip could be the next big competitor, the report says, and it’s especially relevant in the colder months.
It may sound odd, but smoothie beers are gaining traction in fast casual dining. According to Blue Owl Brewing in Austin, Texas, the simplest form of the style is when brewers simply mix pureed fruit when they finish a beer. It’s a trending choice for those seeking a more textured drinking experience.
More Trending Menu Items
Other appetizers that are trending over the last four years include falafel, shown here, the round or patty-shaped fritters made from ground chickpeas common in Middle Eastern cuisine. There’s also fried rice, buttermilk chicken, pork gyoza, mango salad and takoyaki. All of these have low menu penetration and potential to grow, the QSR report says.