Forecasting the upcoming year's trends is risky business. Who would have predicted as we celebrated New Year’s Eve 2019 that the world would be gripped by a pandemic in 2020 that is still making news today? And some of this year’s trends, like butter boards and worldwide Sriracha shortages, would have sounded like make-believe in 2021.
But every year, FoodService Director sister company Technomic issues its set of global trend predictions based on data and menus from around the world. This year is no different.
As we head into 2023, Aaron Jourdan, Technomic’s director of international research and insights, offers up a glimpse of six trends that can potentially impact foodservice and restaurants in the months to come.
Now or never
Operators tended to put sustainability on the back burner as they struggled with supply and labor challenges, food costs and pandemic recovery. But the planet isn’t getting any healthier, as evidenced by recent wild weather swings and destructive forces of nature, and it’s time to take a “now or never” approach to climate change and sustainability initiatives.
Operators across all segments—not just eco-conscious indie chefs and college dining directors—will take a hard look at their carbon footprint, packaging choices, sourcing strategies, menu makeup and other variables that impact the health of the planet.
Here in the U.S. there’s been some backlash against processed plant-based meat products, with sales flat or on the downslide. But Technomic predicts that the bubble is not about to burst, judging from global preferences.
While international locations of major restaurant chains continue to see demand for plant-based burger and chicken alternatives, consumers are also shifting to other, more natural plant-based proteins, including tofu, seitan, tempeh and black bean patties. And vegetables themselves are starring in menu items. Cauliflower and avocado are the frontrunners, but other veggies (squash, yuca and yams) and indigenous grains (sorghum, bulgur and fonio) are starting to make more inroads on global menus.
Takeaway takes from delivery
Consumers aren’t going to give up the convenience of meals to-go, but they are rebelling against sky-high third-party delivery fees. Takeaway—or takeout as it’s called in the U.S.—is going to steal share from delivery among off-premise customers.
In 2022, limited-service concepts have installed more pickup lockers, counters and shelves and added extra drive-thru lanes and takeout windows. Expect to see a boom in these to-go formats as well as the emergence of new off-premise solutions.
By way of Lebanon
Street foods, much more common in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, are starting to trickle onto menus in the U.S. Technomic predicts that the trend will accelerate in 2023, with the next wave coming from Lebanon.
Diners around the world are already familiar with some of the country’s signatures, including shawarma, falafel, hummus and pitas. But there’s a wide assortment of mezze (dips and finger foods) as well as pickled vegetables, labneh (yogurt cheese), kibbeh (ground meat and bulgur) and man’oushe (za’atar-topped flatbreads) that are largely unfamiliar.
These foods have health, adventurous flavor and plant-forward going for them—all attributes consumers are seeking. Operators will seize the opportunity to elevate this Lebanese culinary legacy from its street-food roots and even grow it to become the basis for new concepts.
Limited-time offers are jumping ahead of their traditional windows to launch off-season. Pumpkin spice in August and peppermint in October are the most obvious examples of the trend, but operators are even promoting Christmas in July and sakura-themed LTOs out of sync with cherry blossom time in the spring.
To keep guests engaged and trump the competition, expect to see more of these out-of-season promotions in 2023. Technomic predicts that pumpkin spice has the potential to become a year-round flavor on coffee menus.
Sushi, poke & ceviche
These fish preparations originated in Japan, Hawaii and Latin America respectively, but have become blended with other culinary traditions as they’ve made their way into the mainstream. All are very travel-friendly, and with off-premise dining continuing its ascent, there’s the potential for more interpretations in the future. Mexican-style sushi is already a thing, rolled up with such non-Japanese ingredients as bacon, cilantro, cream cheese, chipotle sauce, mango and plantains.
Jourdan contends that poke concepts will continue to flourish around the world, with lots of room to expand in the Asia-Pacific region. And 2023 could see the emergence of the fast-casual cevicheria.