With the start of a new decade, many experts in the food and restaurant industry have already offered up their takes on what trends we should see in 2020. While some food trends from 2019 are expected to take a nosedive this year (we’re looking at you, CBD oil), others are predicted to heat up even more as this year progresses. Below is a round-up of some of our favorite restaurant and food trends for 2020.
#1 Macadamia Spread
Almond butter is so last year. Forbes predicts a macadamia butter takeover in 2020, with plenty of restaurants and food brands incorporating the nuts into their products. Nut butters garnered a lot of praise from the keto diet community last year, and adding the Hawaiian native to the mix gives even more options to the fat-based plates. Proceed with caution when considering macadamia nuts for your newest menu item, though. They can cost up to $25 a pound!
#2 Ghost Kitchens
“Virtual” or “ghost” kitchens are off-premises dining establishments geared towards pick-up and delivery customers only. Popular food delivery services like Grubhub and DoorDash make these possible, and allow customers to indulge in just about any cuisine without having to leave the comfort of their own homes. From a restaurant’s perspective, ghost kitchens are an effective way to cut back on in-house costs like waiter salaries and rent.
#3 Plant-based Meats
It’s safe to say that plant-based eating is not just a fad, folks. In 2019, fast-food chains like Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts hopped on board with their own versions of plant-based sandwiches that won a lot of meat-eaters over. Trader Joe’s just introduced plant-based protein patties, creating a wide appeal to their huge following. From fast-casual restaurants to popular grocery stores, it might be hard to find a place to eat without the healthy meat alternative in 2020.
#4 Alcoholic Still Water
Spiked seltzers were the buzz in 2019, but alcoholic still water is bringing the low calorie and refreshing beverage to a whole new level this year. Pura Still is the leading brand in this area of alcoholic beverages, and it found a way to reduce calories and sugar within their product while still providing a 4.5% ABV per drink. With the increased curiosity in health and wellness in the U.S., competing for alcohol brands may follow this trend with their own versions of spiked water in 2020.
An emphasis on plant-based alternatives has restaurant-goers even more curious about going fully vegan, and with a growing amount of options, the diet is more sustainable than ever. While the plant-based diet is geared more towards consumers who would like to eat healthier, the wide variety of no-animal product menu items and packaged products in 2020 could lead to more converts to the vegan lifestyle.
#6 Collagen-spiked Drinks
Collagen supplements for skin and nails are nothing new, but Technomic predicts that this year may bring collagen-spiked beverages for a tastier way to get glowing. Collagen-infused lattes and margaritas are all over blogs like Pinterest, but the craving for a delicious way to get one’s vitamins could bring original concoctions to restaurant menus.
#7 Even More Delivery
More technology enables even more delivery, and in 2020 restaurants are exploring new heights when it comes to sending out orders. Domino’s Innovation Garage in Ann Arbor is a workspace comprised of forward-thinkers looking to change the game in the food delivery world. It experiments with autonomous pizza delivery vehicles, ordering kiosks, and GPS tracking. Here’s to hoping this year might bring robots to our doorsteps holding the perfect pizza.
#8 Guilt-free Desserts
Alternative yet healthful sweeteners are on the rise – even Splenda has come out with a stevia-based sweetener. The “health is wealth” motto is taking over 2020 in many forms, and desserts are no exception. Hu Kitchen in NYC has gained a cult following for its dairy-free and paleo treats by nixing refined sugars in their chocolate bars and desserts.
#9 Sichuan Sauce
Technomic predicts that Sichuan Mala Sauce will be the next “it” sauce this year, and with the optimal flavor provided from this Chinese chili pepper-based condiment it’s hard to protest. The sauce is said to give a numbing or tingly effect because it’s packed with Szechuan peppers.
#10 Specialty Burger Blends
You’ve tried mushrooms on top of burgers, but what about mushroom-infused burgers? The National Restaurant Association conducted a survey last year asking 600 restaurant chefs to rank how “hot” they think several 2020 food trends will be. They then used the data to create a “What’s Hot” culinary forecast for this year. Specialty burger blends and mushroom-infused burgers, specifically, were top hitters.
#11 Healthy Bowls
Healthy bowls raked #4 on the National Restaurant Association’s hotlist. The availability of bowl-filled meals everywhere from Chipotle to Dunkin Donuts has expanded the interest towards swapping out the bun for a bowl. Bowls allow customers to pick and choose their ingredients and allow for a healthy base like rice or greens. With numerous plant-based proteins on the market, this trend is perfectly customizable to any diet.
#12 Grab-and-go Breakfast
Fresh to-go breakfast is expected to bring bright mornings to the fast casual-dining scene this year. IHOP just announced that it will be expanding its brand with the debut of “Flip’d” where customers can choose from their all-day breakfast menu packaged easily for to-go meals. Restaurants like Flip’d are ideal for customers who crave a hot and savory breakfast but just don’t have the time to dine in-house with a busy work schedule. Flip’d is launching in the spring of this year with multiple locations across the U.S.
#13 All Kinds of Booch
If you’re not sipping on the tangy apple cider vinegar-based beverage known as Kombucha, where have you been? National Kombucha Day was January 15th and even earned its very own Snapchat filter to celebrate. It’s predicted that 2020 will bring more Kombucha flavors and a variety of spiked versions of the fermented mushroom tea. According to a report by Fortune Business Insights, the Kombucha market and its top players are forecast to see growth within the next few years around the world.
#14 Eco-friendly Packaging
Eco-friendly packaging ranked #1 on the National Restaurant Association’s “Hot” list, and our world’s current focus on reducing waste and improving sustainability makes this one a no-brainer. Look out for even more reduction of plastic straws, reusable delivery containers and zero-waste dishes this year.
Spirit-free cocktails gained some traction in 2019, and the sober curious movement is predicted to get even more popular this year. Sober bars are popping up all around the country for hangover-free fun, promoting the benefits of socializing without alcohol. On top of that, many beer and wine brands are keeping up with the low ABV trend and introducing beverages with less alcohol.
#16 Stronger Employee Retention
Attracting and retaining talent should always be a high priority for restaurants, but CEO of Torchy’s Tacos, GJ Hart, believes 2020 will bring more strategies for improvement. The use of technology has made finding and retaining the best talent easier than ever and restaurants now have so many options when it comes to creating a hiring game plan. Need help customizing your restaurant’s hiring strategies? Check out Bikelane HIRE and get your free 30-day trial today.
#17 Revamped Kids Menus
In Whole Foods’ 2020 Food Trends report, the grocery chain predicted that our “future foodies” will be key players in the dining scene this year. The boring lunch box containing a sandwich and chips is getting a makeover as more children are starting to develop broader palettes alongside their food-exploring parents. Whole Foods suggests non-breaded salmon fish sticks and pasta made from alternative flour for tiny yet adventurous eaters.
#18 Healthy Prepackaged Snacks
Whole Foods also noted in its predicted that out-of-the-box, into-the-fridge snacks will come to life in 2020. For fast-casual restaurants looking to serve more than cheese puffs at the cashier, these refrigerator-friendly snacks are ideal. Munchies like hard-boiled eggs, bone broth, and cottage cheese are all easy to store and can be served in perfect portions.
#19 Alternative Flours
Gluten-free flours not only appeal to the health-conscious crowd but also those affected by celiac disease. Restaurants and food brands have found alternative ways to experiment with bread crumbs, croutons and coatings by using alternative flours. Coconut, cauliflower and banana flour are all possible ways to ditch the wheat when preparing meals this year.
#20 West African Foods
It doesn’t take visiting a restaurant known for its West African cuisine to run into some of the country’s favorite ingredients. Whole Foods listed foods from West Africa as another trend for 2020, and the theme of superfoods and indulgent spices explains why. Ginger, millet, and lemongrass are all ingredients that restaurants can look to the country for. Need some inspiration? Check out Teranga in Harlem for a traditional West African meal.
When it comes to restaurant predictions and trends, this may be the one exception where it’s totally okay to be a follower. Popular food trends like plant-based meats are just an example of how beneficial it was to hop on the bandwagon in 2019. Finding ways to incorporate these trends into your own restaurant poses very little risk to your business, and could be as simple as adding a new menu item. If you’re not ready to experiment with West African ingredients or flour alternatives yet, don’t worry. Start with a trend that would be beneficial for your restaurant’s overall wellbeing, like swapping in eco-friendly packaging for deliveries. Your customers and the planet will thank you for it.