1. From fashion runway to plate
Collar and leather are words typically associated with fashion, but they are moving their way onto menus. Collar—the cut of meat taken from along the clavicle of an animal—is appearing more within restaurants, particularly in pork and fish menu mentions. Although the practice is currently trending more at independent restaurants, Technomic predicts chains will jump on the bandwagon soon. Collar is a little harder to find and a little uglier, but it’s very inexpensive and rich in flavor—two pros for both operators and consumers.
Leather is also trending in the culinary scene. Think fruit and vegetable leathers, but also funkier varieties: Yogurt leather is featured in a brunch granola dish at Chicago’s Longman & Eagle, and both ketchup leather and Sriracha leather are served on various items at Plan Check Kitchen + Bar, an emerging chain based out of Los Angeles. Consumers prize these items for their concentrated sweetness and nontraditional texture. Further, they’re nostalgic—you can’t think about leathered foods without thinking of beloved Fruit Roll-Ups from your childhood.
2. Veggie ‘pastas’
Technomic foresees vegetables taking a more prominent role on menus and being offered in more unique preparations. Not only are veggies moving to the center of the plate, but they are predicted to take the place of traditional starches, particularly pasta and rice. Houlihan’s Inspiralized Menu transforms vegetables like sweet potato, zucchini and butternut squash into noodles. Specialties include Thai ‘Noodle’ Salad with spiralized zucchini and Butternut Squash and Sausage Lasagna with spiralized squash. Future opportunities include spiralized beet, chayote, carrot and parsnip on menus.
Even cauliflower couscous is having a moment: Ford’s Filling Station in Los Angeles pairs it with Colorado Lamb Loin, and Two in Chicago features it alongside sea scallops.
Next up: cauliflower rice.
3. Savory sweets
Foods that typically take on sweet dessert-style toppings or fillings are now being revamped with rich, savory ingredients that lend a contrasting taste profile. Applications at breakfast include waffles, pancakes, doughnuts and crepes featuring savory accents and sweet syrups infused with herbs.
Savory umami profiles are also underscoring the uniqueness factor behind the bar, where sweet cocktails are incorporating ingredients like seaweed and onions. The Hachi cocktail at Kuro inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Florida is made with a bourbon infused with four different mushrooms and a housemade black pepper syrup, playing off the super-sweet flavor of mirin (Japanese rice wine). The amalgamation of savory and sweet gives taste buds a jolt.
4. Beverages as food flavors
Today it seems like everything is a flavor. Beverages, for example, that aren’t actually flavors are being featured or called out as flavors in foods. Let’s take horchata, for instance. The Latin beverage is not technically a flavor, but rather a combination of flavors from the ingredients within it, including almond, sesame and cinnamon. But Yogurtland calls out horchata as a flavor in its new Mexican Horchata Frozen Yogurt.
And the same with pina colada, which is technically a combination of pineapple, coconut, rum and other flavorings. Hurricane Grill & Wings recently rolled out a Spicy Pina Colada Sauce for its wings and sandwiches.
Why is this happening? People associate these flavors with something they know and love, and being able to taste known beverages in food provides a fun yet nostalgic flavor twist.
5. The comeback of peasant fare
Peasant fare is returning to a plethora of menus, though not entirely in all its classic rustic glory. We’re seeing some gourmet-inspired and nontraditional versions and applications. Porridge, polenta, toast and biscuits are among the many peasant items getting glammed up on menus. And the list goes on, from meatballs to dumplings to sausages, all of which are incorporating proteins beyond beef or pork to include poultry and other proteins, like underutilized meat cuts. Operators should be honing in on how to glitzily market offal and other lower-cost meat options like flap steak as a way to combat high beef prices.