We asked chefs which restaurant menu trends they are paying the most attention to. Their answers varied from clean label practices to authentic world flavors. Click through to see the trends 7 noncommercial chefs are implementing at their operations right now.
1. Clean label
"I believe that the most relevant trend for our operation will be 'clean label' trends for multiple reasons. One: the trend commercially tends to lean toward the nutrition/health side of clean labeling in the disclosure of simple ingredient lists. For noncommercial, it's much the same but goes even a step further. Two: Noncommercial facilities are now being tasked with higher levels of traceability throughout their operations, and with that naturally comes a clean(er) label. Three: Forward thinking. With noncommercial operations (and commercial alike) becoming more and more transparent, we are obligated to be as honest and forthcoming as possible in terms of product usage (and we will continue to be 'called out' when we don't) which in turn obligates us to clean up our labels/recipes."
—Chef Rocky Dunnam
Elizabeth Jane Bivins Culinary Center
3. Fusion concepts
"My clients like most adventurous, fusions to today's trend...from street corners to Sri Lankan chicken curries. Again, the trends compound into concept stations. Everything is scratch made to a great audience, from Indian rotis to African grains, and in between a great burger. We call it burgers without borders."
—Executive Chef Iraj Fernando
Southern Foodservice Management, Inc.
4. Eat local
"In Denver, especially, the local trend is huge. Not just local companies, but what some of us are calling 'hyper local,' using vendors and companies that use local sourcing inside their products. Many times companies are local, but getting products shipped from all over the United States or the world... Finding products that use local grains, local oil manufacturers, even purchasing the shipping boxes from a local company makes a huge difference in quality and environmental impact. Sourcing out the right products and balancing the give and take is always hard, but allowing local companies who support other local businesses builds a better community all around."
—Executive Chef John Krause
Children's Hospital Colorado
"I feel if we can reduce front-of-the-house labor like Urban Plates or Lemonade, that would be huge. I work in a senior living environment and full service is very important. With the rising cost of labor in California, any reduction in labor is welcome. This would require new equipment and may not be possible at our location, however, new startups should consider the benefits. We may try to expand our to-go service in the future."
—Shawn Noack, food and beverage director
Morningside of Fullerton
6. Seasonal produce
"Restaurant trends are hard to mimic in K-12 applications. However, I try to include the flavors when we can. For example, we have developed a recipe for a Thai Beef salad and a recipe for a Thai Ranch dressing to include ethnic flavors in our rotation. Another farm-to-table nod is roasting vegetables, and incorporating fresh local produce on our Garden Bars. We will include fresh flowers in our lettuce mix the first day of spring, to celebrate and show the kids that flowers are edible! A local vendor is supplying us with the flowers."
—Stephanie Dyehouse, assistant foodservice supervisor of culinary development
Cincinnati Public Schools
7. Plant-based diet
"The biggest trend that continues to gain traction and show promise from a customer's standpoint is the plant-based diet. Not only is it healthy for our patients and visitors, but it also challenges our chefs to come up with new and creative ways to prepare plant-based foods and appeal to a wide customer base."
—Drew Patterson, culinary director for nutrition services
Ohio State Wexner Medical Center