Operations

6 predictions for foodservice’s year ahead

FSD’s editors weigh in on what they see taking shape in the industry during 2023.
school lunches
Sustainability, plant-based cuisine and farm-to-school programs are on tap for 2023. / Illustration: Shutterstock

2022 was a rollercoaster of a year, and 2023 may pack plenty of surprises as well. FSD’s editors have been keeping a close eye on the trends—here’s what we see gaining prominence in the months to come.

The universal free meals conversation heats up.

Expanding universal free meals at school was a major topic of conversation among school nutrition professionals, food industry leaders and government officials throughout last year and will likely continue in 2023. Lawmakers in Missouri and South Carolina have already pre-filed universal free meals bills for this legislative session, and lawmakers in other states are sure to follow as the year carries on.

Sustainability gains more steam.

Consumers will continue to place more pressure on foodservice to address the climate crisis, and we’ll see more earth-friendly efforts as a result. One major issue we will see addressed: food waste. In addition to the sustainability benefits, cutting waste can also translate to cost savings. From upcycling to waste prevention programs, it will be one of the major ways we see concepts addressing their carbon footprint in 2023.

Speaking of reduced carbon footprints, the plant-based wave kept taking industry by storm. We will see this trend stick around in 2023 as foodservice concepts attempt to curate more carbon-friendly menus. Plant-based seafood products will see a big boom as consumers look for more innovative twists on traditional fare.

Mushroom mania sets in.

Mushrooms are exploding as a plant-based meat alternative as consumers look for less processed ingredients. Even the rootlike network beneath the soil called mycelium is being used to create plant-based protein products. Mushroom coffee is also trending. Mushrooms have protein, are rich in umami and boast a low carbon footprint. Expect to see more next year.

Farm-to-school keeps growing.

Sourcing locally will continue to gain strength as school nutrition programs expand their partnerships with local suppliers to tackle supply chain issues and educate students on where their food comes from. Federal funding, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $60 million investment in farm-to-school commodity purchasing announced over the summer, will aid K-12 operators as they grow their farm-to-school programs this year.

A greater number of global cuisines get a spotlight.

Chefs are showcasing ingredients, dishes and techniques that reflect the culinary roots of themselves or their families. Concepts serving the cuisines of Nigeria, Ghana, the Philippines, the Balkan countries and other lesser-known parts of the world will be ones to watch in 2023.

Tech hits an inflection point.

Last year brought a proliferation of robots to noncommercial dining rooms—they’re serving cocktails in senior living, bussing dishes and singing happy birthday to celebrating guests. As the tight labor market continues and the cost of AI has come down, some operators have found robotic team members to be a big help. That will likely remain the case in 2023. However, there are some signs that robots aren’t always delivering on intended goals. In August, Chowbotics, the maker of Sally the salad robot, was shut down by its parent company, DoorDash, and restaurant chain Chili’s put the brakes on its test of robot servers.

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