Restaurant Association predicts 2017 trends

14 Dec 2016

The US National Restaurant Association has published what it believes will be 2017’s top trends, including local sourcing, fast-casual concepts, natural/clean menus and environmental sustainability.

Restaurant Association predicts 2017 trends

The US National Restaurant Association has published what it believes will be 2017’s top trends.

1. Hyper-local sourcing

Chefs are putting extra emphasis on the freshness of their produce. For some, that means they’re growing it on the premises (think restaurant roof gardens). Others are even starting their own indoor hydroponic gardens, where they grow mustard greens, basil, broccoli and more. It doesn’t get more local than that.

2. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts

The term "fast food" may not bring to mind gourmet items and refined cuisine, but that's starting to change as chefs are increasingly exploring the quickservice space. The fast-casual restaurant industry segment has grown explosively in the last decade and is showing no signs of slowing down. Menus are focusing on fresh, high-quality ingredients as chefs create fine-dining versions of burgers, pizza, sandwiches and more.

3. Natural ingredients/clean menus

Chefs continue to pay more attention to the quality and provenance of the raw ingredients they use. They’re focusing on minimally processed items, and serving a larger variety of natural, whole foods that are healthful and great tasting.

4. Environmental sustainability

More diners, especially millennials, are searching for restaurant brands that share their responsible beliefs and values. They want businesses they frequent to recycle, manage their food waste and source locally. And chefs, who recognize the benefits of sustainability, are winning over new, loyal customers and helping to save some natural resources.

5. Locally sourced produce

Chefs know consumers are paying more attention to what they eat, and that their desire for locally grown produce is, well, growing. Many are also working with local farmers to source the freshest fruit and vegetables and look for smaller-scale harvests of unique and varied produce to inspire culinary creativity.

6. Locally sourced meat and seafood

Chefs want their protein like they want their produce – fresh and locally raised. Working with fish species native to your region or a local breeder of heritage breeds of pigs inspire chefs to get creative with menus while leveraging consumer interest in everything local.

7. Food waste reduction

Restaurants are looking at more ways to reduce the amount of food waste they generate and throw away. They’re starting to serve up smaller portions, donate unused food to those in need, recycle it or compost it. Driven by identifying efficiencies to reduce back-of-the-house costs while wholesale food prices were spiking a few years ago and by doing what's right for the planet, food waste reduction is getting more and more creative.

8. Meal kits

Around since 2012, the meal-kit business is growing by leaps and bounds and restaurants are getting in on the action. These packages of pre-measured and prepped ingredients offer consumers the option to prepare meals that bridge the gap between takeout and scratch cooking at home. Since chefs work with that approach in the restaurant kitchen with mise en place, they see opportunities in translating it into a new iteration of traditional takeout.

9. Simplicity/back to basics

Diners and chefs alike are waxing nostalgic over the olden days. Remember when molecular gastronomy was the thing? Now think back to before the time of culinary chemistry, when chefs mostly worked with simple preparation methods and uncomplicated recipes. Cacio e pepe pasta, anyone?

10. Nutrition

Consumers are getting smarter about the food they eat and more attuned to their own bodies. They want to make better, healthier meal choices and eat at restaurants that offer good choices for them and their families. They are looking not only for what's generally considered "healthy," but what's actually healthy for them, be it a low-carb diet, eating more produce or seeking out more whole grains.