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National Restaurant Association - Menu trends to watch in 2017

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Menu trends to watch in 2017

While the National Restaurant Association's What’s Hot in 2017 chef survey highlights what's trending on restaurant menus, additional analysis of survey results and respondents’ answers to open-ended questions reveal a few more food ideas to keep an eye on in the next year:

  • Local farm-to-table as the new normal?

Local sourcing and farm-to-table concepts have been long-standing elements in culinary circles and restaurant hot spots, but the mainstream dining public has only caught on in recent years. While farm-to-table concepts and locally sourced food still rank as top trends, they are moving toward perennial favorite territory, indicating that they may be on their way to becoming the new normal.

  • Next generation of global flavors

Chef and restaurateurs continue to delve deeper into global flavors, both in terms of authentic ethnic cuisine, as well as fusions and flavor integration. Southeast Asian cuisines are still a big part of this trend – especially lesser known ones, such as Laotian and Filipino – but African and Middle-Eastern spices are coming on especially strong.

  • Street-food getting fancy

While it may sound like a contradiction, street food is increasingly turning up on tableservice menus. Staples of market vendors, food trucks and quickservice establishments around the world are getting a style-upgrade to fit chef-driven menus. From tacos and pupusas to bao and kebobs are now served on white tablecloths.

  • Food transparency

Fresh, natural and simple are the culinary words of the day. As consumers are taking a greater interest in ingredient lists of packaged food – the shorter the better, the more pronounceable the better – chefs and restaurateurs also look for minimally processed ingredients for their menus.

  • Fun with grains

Quinoa is ubiquitous these days, but it’s starting to cool off as a hot trend. Its cousins in the ancient grain family are picking up that heat, though. Amaranth, spelt, farro and sorghum may be coming soon to a grain bowl near you.

  • Vegetarian and vegan cuisines cool down

After a few years on the rise among hot menu trends fueled by an increased focus on health and nutrition, vegan and vegetarian cuisines are becoming less trendy. They are not going anywhere, though, as they are gaining momentum as permanent features on restaurant menus. Simultaneously, veggie-centric cuisine continues to heat up, indicating that plant-focused diets are increasingly embraced by both chefs and consumers.

  • Underused meats are on the outs

Meat cuts like chicken feet, pig ears, tongue and oxtail had their moment in the sun as far as being trendy, but the skies are now partly cloudy. And speaking of underused proteins, insects continue to hold the number-one spot on the yesterday’s news list in the What’s Hot in 2017 report. 

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