In a photo report, Forbes compiles forecasts from the National Restaurant Association, restaurant trade magazines, and restaurant-research firms to map the food trends that will have diners salivating in 2014.
1. Locally Sourced Everything: American diners increasingly crave food grown in their own region, rather than delicacies trucked or flown in from far-off locales. The National Restaurant Association’s recently released “What’s Hot in 2014” chef survey found local sourcing figured in four of the top ten trends. The hottest trend NRA identified: Locally sourced meats and seafood, followed closely by locally grown produce. Major restaurant chains are already featuring local sourcing in their marketing. Chipotle created a game that raised awareness of the fast-Mexican chain’s local-sourcing initiatives, and Panera Bread’s campaign “Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously” promoted its food sourcing. Expect more restaurants to trumpet their local purchasing and expand local-sourcing efforts next year.
2. Veggies Galore: Though most Americans still eat meat, the vegan movement is affecting restuarant menus. A new study from Datassential found one-third of restaurant chains now have at least one vegetarian entree. That’s done so that a group eating out won’t veto their eatery because there’s nothing for the vegetarian in the group to eat. A 2012 Harris Poll commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group found nearly half of Americans eat at least one non-meat meal per week, up from 40 percent back in 2007. That trend continues to grow.The current top vegetables appearing on restaurant menus, according to Datassential? Onions and tomatoes.What’s up and coming? Foraged foods such as local mushrooms. Watch for vegetables to even turn up in cocktails, forecasts San Francisco hospitality consulting and research firm Andrew Freeman & Co.
3. Healthier Kids’ Meals: Parents are fighting back against childhood obesity, and want healthy restaurant choices. Healthful kids’ meals was one of the top-10 trends identified in the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2014” survey. Watch for more sides of apples, yogurt, and baked fries instead of French fries in 2014.
4. Gluten Free: If you were hoping the gluten-free craze was burning out, sorry to disappoint. Gluten-free cuisine was a top-five trend identified in the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2014” survey, identified by more than three-quarters of chefs as a niche they planned to do more with next year. Don’t just think packaged goods or gluten-free brownies, either. You’ll see the desire to avoid wheat gluten drive more use of pasta noodles made from buckwheat and other grains. Also, expect more ancient, super-nutritious grains such as quinoa and amaranth to pop up in dishes that might once have used wheat flour.
5. Instant Ice Cream: Our love of instant gratification and artisanal, handcrafted foods combine in Smitten Ice Cream’s new 90-second, made-while-you wait frozen treats. The 2-year-old San Francisco company has two stores open and two more are already planned. With videos going viral showing Smitten’s liquid nitrogen-fueled freezing process, expect copycat chains to emerge next year. Ice cream is headed into the spotlight as a dessert in other ways, too—San Francisco hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. is forecasting ice cream sandwiches will be the new “it” dessert, besting cupcakes and doughnuts.
6. Nuts: High-protein, healthy nuts and seeds are valued by carb-cutting diners for a healthy energy boost. A fall 2013 NPD Group survey on snacking found 77 percent of Americans have nuts on hand at home, and incorporate them into all three meals. Watch for restaurants to do the same in 2014.
7. Better-Quality Pizza: The era of cheap pizza with low-quality ingredients is ending, with the rise of artisan, gourmet pizza chains such as Blaze Fast-Fired Pizza, MOD Pizza, Patxi’s, and many more. Most of these chains are expanding through selling franchises, a fast-growth model that will see many more neighborhoods get their own upscale pizza joint in 2014. And some have big backers that will help their brands expand—Buffalo Wild Wings is behind Los Angeles-based PizzaRev, and Smashburger founders Tom Ryan and Rick Schaden are the brains behind Denver’s Live Basil.When the industry forms a support group—as the National Restaurant Association did this year with the Pizzeria Industry Council—you know a trend is taking off.
8. Chicken Wings: Once only seen as bar food, chicken wings have become so ever-present that the National Chicken Council found 13.5 billion chicken wings were marketed in 2012, not counting the ones still attached to whole chickens. We eat more than 1 billion chicken wings on Super Bowl weekend alone, the council says. Over the last year, 22 restaurant chains added chicken wings to their menus, research firm Technomic found. Some restaurant-watchers wonder when Americans will get bored of wings, but the industry doesn’t think we’re there yet—the USDA predicts a 3 percent increase in chicken production next year. But watch for more upscale eateries to buck this trend and take chicken off the menu in favor of more exotic meats such as catfish, pork belly, and goat, as they look to stand out.
9. Upscale Comfort Food: In 2014, watch for old-time comfort foods done with more upscale ingredients—such as this mac-and-cheese update Italian style with sauteed salami, garlic, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and onions.”Highbrow versions of classic comfort foods are popping up all over menus, from appetizers to dessert,” says San Francisco hospitality consultant and trend-spotter Andrew Freeman in a 2014 trend report.
10. Mashup Dishes: Ever had a dessert pizza, like the coconut-chocolate-with-strawberries pie , or tasted one of 2013’s breakout foods, the croissant-doughnut hybrid cronut? These sort of “mutant morsels” will be all the rage in 2014, forecasts San Francisco hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co. Gaining buzz: A burger served on a griddled ramen-noodle bun, created by New York-based chef Keizo Shimamoto. Freeman says imitators are already cropping up.
11. Umami: The savory “fifth taste” is popping up in sauces, salts, and burgers, at fast-growing L.A.-based franchise chain Umami Burger. In 2014, watch for scores of other restaurants to jump on the umami trend, too.
12. Biscuits: Move over, pretzel and croissant buns. Biscuits are riding the comfort-food trend to become the next “it” ingredient to hold sandwiches and burgers together, forecasts San Francisco hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co.