The National Restaurant Association (NRA) annually explores the top menu trends for the coming year. For this year’s What’s Hot culinary forecast, the NRA surveyed nearly 1,600 professional chefs—members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF)—to find which foods, beverages and culinary themes will be hot on restaurant menus in 2016.
The top 20 food trends from the NRA-ACF forecast are:
1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts
3. Locally grown produce
4. Hyper-local sourcing
5. Natural ingredients/minimally processed food
6. Environmental sustainability
7. Healthful kids’ meals
8. New cuts of meat
9. Sustainable seafood
10. House-made/artisan ice cream
11. Ethnic condiments/spices
12. Authentic ethnic cuisine
13. Farm/estate branded items
14. Artisan butchery
15. Ancient grains
16. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items
17. Fresh/house-made sausage
18. House-made/artisan pickles
19. Food waste reduction/management
20. Street food/food trucks
The top trends in food also extend to the bar, with the hottest alcohol trends including locally produced and craft beer, wine and spirits. When asked which current food trend has grown the most over that last decade, 44 percent of the chefs surveyed said local sourcing. Looking forward, 41 percent said the trend that will grow the most in the next 10 years is environmental sustainability.
Menu items that gained in trendiness since last year’s survey include African flavors, authentic ethnic cuisine, ethnic condiments/spices, house-made/artisan soft drinks, Middle Eastern flavors and non-traditional liquors. Items that lost momentum include underutilized fish, kale salads, fresh beans/peas, gluten-free cuisine, quinoa and flower essence in cocktails.
The NRA surveyed 1,575 ACF members in September 2015, asking them to rate 221 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite” on menus in 2016.