Locally sourced meats, seafood and produce once again top the list of 20 culinary trends predicted by chefs for the National Restaurant Association's "What’s Hot in 2013" forecast.
Nutrition, particularly in kids’ meals, and sustainability remain as other trends widely expected by the 1,834 members of the American Culinary Federation that responded to the NRA’s annual survey this fall.
Gluten-free items also remained a hot button topic, with “gluten-free cuisine” being the No. 8 prediction for 2013. Although “gluten-free food/allergy conscious items” was No. 7 on last year’s list, some newcomers to the 2013 top 20 list expand on the gluten-free theme, such as non-wheat noodles/pasta at No. 12 and black or “forbidden” rice at No. 19.
Also new to this year’s list is “environmental sustainability as a culinary theme,” in 4th place, reflecting an ongoing interest by consumers in the origins in their food.
“Ethnic-inspired items” was back on the list after a one-year absence. The same is true for “half portions/smaller portions for a smaller price,” which was on the 2011 list.
Local sourcing has long been ranked as a top food trend, and in 2012 restaurateurs have become more creative in the past year in differentiating their local programs. More chains have developed strategies for using their neighbors’ products, a growing number of hotels are raising their own bees, and more and more independent restaurants are growing their own produce or foraging for it.
Gluten-free items have also been growing in popularity and availability, thanks in part to a well-organized digital community of people on gluten-free diets who reward restaurants that cater to them with support and patronage. Chains ranging from Chuck E. Cheese’s, to P.F. Chang’s China Bistro to Domino’s Pizza have introduced gluten-free offerings in the past year.
Kids’ nutrition remains a priority as restaurants act to take a role in stemming the tide of obesity. Darden Restaurants has completed its initiative of offering fruits and vegetables as kids' default side items. McDonald’s, too, has moved to offer kids more fruit and vegetable side options.
Bartenders sound off on drink trends
The NRA expanded its research for it's forecast this year by surveying 195 bartenders in October and November, asking them to rate items as a “hot trend” for 2013, “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite.”
The beverage experts, all members of The United States Bartenders’ Guild, predicted that strategies that restaurants and bars used to differentiate themselves would be the hottest trends. Respondents predict that the top three drink trends for 2013 would be on-site barrel-aged drinks, food pairings with cocktail or liquor, and “culinary” cocktails featuring savory or fresh ingredients.
Micro-distilled or artisan liquors also made the top 5 list, as did locally produced spirits.
Topping the “perennial favorites” list are red wine, white wine, French wine, citrus fruit and olives as garnish, stouts, Scotch whisky, porters and food-and-wine pairings.
Barrel-aged cocktails have been trending for the past year at places such as Bibiana Osteria Enoteca in Washington, D.C., and beer-and-food pairings made it to chain restaurants in 2012, when “better burger” chain Smashburger began rolling out pairings featuring local craft breweries.
Waning trends — the ones that scored highest in the “yesterday’s news” category — are hard lemonade, nonalcoholic wine, “skinny” cocktails, dessert-flavored cocktails, white sangria, frozen cocktails, light beer, kosher wine, and boxed wine.
|Top 5 predicted menu trends for 2013||Top 5 predicted drink trends for 2013|
|1. Locally sourced meats and seafood||1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks|
|2. Locally grown produce||2. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings|
|3. Healthful kids' meals||3. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)|
|4. Environmental sustainability as a culinary theme||4. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor|
|5. Children's nutrition as a culinary theme||5. Locally produced spirits|