What are some of the top food trends that restaurants are featuring in 2023?
Bar & Restaurant spoke with chefs, restaurant operators, and hospitality group leaders to discover their predictions and uncover what will be big on menus this year.
According to our experts, there are numerous big-picture food trends to pay attention to in the coming months and beyond, including more global and region-specific foods, the next phase of the plant-based revolution, sustainable and environmentally-friendly cuisine, menu integrity and honesty, and communal food experiences that deliver on theatrics and “eatertainment.”
In addition, our panel of chefs and experts dished on a variety of micro food trends that restaurants should watch and consider – including unique new flavors and brews, utilizing all parts of a protein, dry-aging fish, fermentation and pickling, and elevating mushrooms and truffles as part of plant-based cuisine.
Interestingly, even though our focus with this story is on food trends for 2023, many chefs and operators wanted to discuss back-of-house improvements, which they hope to implement this year – things like healthier working conditions, eliminating toxic and degrading work environments, mental health days, and embracing new technologies.
Overall, the industry seems to be enthusiastic about all the possibilities in 2023 and beyond. Here’s what they had to say.
BIG-PICTURE RESTAURANT FOOD TRENDS FOR 2023
Consumers Will Want to Discover More Global and Region-Specific Foods
Julio Aguilera, executive chef and partner at Copas in San Francisco, Calif., said, “We’re going to see more authentic modern cuisines in 2023. We’re seeing chefs across the country cooking the food of their culture’s history. This not only brings chefs back to their roots, but they’re able to share that with the community. It also gives their staff something to talk about with new audiences.”
Joana Rodriguez, chef de cuisine at Blue Aster and Conrad Nashville in Nashville, Tenn., agreed that chefs will develop authentic food that ties to their roots and experiences. “As we've become more educated diners, we open up a platform for these creative outlets,” she explained. “We learn to appreciate the individuality chefs are bringing to the table and are not so focused on ‘what's cool right now.’ Being a chef, you get pulled into many directions when it comes to creating new dishes, but for us, it's about what excites us and how we translate that to the guest.”
Kam Talebi, CEO of Kaskaid hospitality group, which runs The Butcher's Tale in Minneapolis, Minn., is seeing Americans becoming more adventurous with their food. “Tastes of southeast Asia are gaining ground in every restaurant,” he said. “Even your corner burger joint has a sesame ginger peanut salad. Every restaurant is adding items inspired by Thailand and Vietnam. This trend will get even stronger this year. In addition, expect to see Southeast Asian cuisine paired with Indian cuisine a la Indonesia. Americans are finally getting more adventurous with their food, and every region near the equator is being borrowed from to accommodate."
Hunter Evans, the executive chef and owner at Elvie’s in Jackson, Miss. – a 2023 James Beard semi-finalist for best chef in the South, said Filipino food will be introduced in a big way in 2023. “Many people don’t know the depth of Filipino food, but I think we will see that cuisine making a big splash across the country,” he said. “I have a really talented chef de cuisine who has a Filipino background, and he is cooking some really flavorful and unique dishes to bring to our menu.”
Charles Bililies, founder and CEO of Souvla, located in San Francisco, thinks chefs and restaurateurs will get hyper-focused on regional cuisines, especially areas that may not have received love and attention in years past. “Think very specific areas of Italy, or the cuisine of the country of Georgia,” he shared. “Oh, and for sure the continued rise and popularity of Greek wines – the ultimate combination of quality and value.”
Daniel Diaz, head of food and beverage at Montage Los Cabos, agreed that there’ll be a greater focus on regional cuisine. “Guests are getting more and more interested in discovering dishes that are unique to a region's ingredients and preparation,” he said. “This is either menu items or actual concepts. For example, travelers and diners will become increasingly more culturally aware of the differences in gastronomy from Oaxaca compared to the rest of Mexican cuisine, which is why the Mercados de Mexico tasting menu concept at our restaurant Mezcal is so popular with our guests. We’ll try to expand upon this offering in the restaurant as well as throughout other areas within the resort.”
Sustainable and Environmentally-Friendly Foods Will Become More Common
The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) Trendspotter Panel considered what will be hot in 2023, and sustainability and environmental concerns are among the top trends. Also, Datassential, the food and beverage insights platform, noted the rise of regenerative agriculture in the food space. SFA said that regenerative agriculture is “a holistic look at farming practices in relation to soil health and overall sustainability,” and it’ll show up more in the media, on products, and on restaurant menus in 2023.
Chef Kelly McCown of The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento Calif., a one-star Michelin restaurant, shared, “As our guests continue to express concern about where their food comes from, we have seen increased interest in and demand for pasture-raised and 100 percent grass-fed beef. This is why we love the program that Grass Fed Foods is developing in this country. I think the impact that they are going to have on the industry is significant. Creating a product that is contributing to regenerative agriculture is huge, and the flavor of the beef itself is incredible.
Executive Chef Richie Farina, Adorn Bar & Restaurant in Chicago, Ill., said an up-and-coming sustainable and environmentally-friendly ingredient is seaweed. “We’ll see more sustainably harvested seaweed as a highlighted ingredient on menus,” he said. “It won’t just be used as a byproduct for gelling purposes.”
Healthy, Holistic F&B with Functional Benefits Will Stand out in 2023
The Specialty Food Association also pointed out that consumers will seek more balance between their desire for health and sheer indulgence in 2023, with interest in functional foods that support immunity, gut health, memory, and more. On the other hand, Lyons Magnus predicted that consumers will seek wellness benefits in liquid form, including energy, mental health, and gut health support. Overall, it’s about food and beverages that take a holistic and functional approach to health-minded items.
Vinson Petrillo, executive chef at Zero Restaurant + Bar in Charleston, S.C., said, “I believe chefs will be taking a look at healthier cooking options, holistic approaches and vegetable-focused dishes. After dealing with COVID and fears of being sick, diners more than ever are looking to eat delicious but also healthier foods. It’s not just ‘foods’; mushroom tinctures, such as reishi, are being used to reduce inflammation and help boost your immune system. With well-being on diners’ minds, healthier options will be a strong trend in 2023.”
Harsch Koshti, regional taste expert for Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa, shared, “More and more consumers are moving towards functionality and simplicity with flavors that convey a halo of health, be it added functional ingredients or flavors that imply improved wellness. Health continues to be important, as seen in the rise of healthier snacking options, with less sodium and more protein-based launches. Even the bakery segment is witnessing offerings with reduced sugar claims across key markets.”
Restaurants Will Incorporate More Plant-based Innovation and Cuisine in 2023
Plant-based foods continue to gain steam, but we may see new innovations with a “plant-based 2.0” phase. In fact, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) noted that plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy are now considered “old hat,” but plant-based pasta, rice, and other items will be a growing trend in 2023. IFIC said that these products point a new lens on sustainability and innovation, often relying on “upcycling,” which takes plant-based food components that ordinarily would have gone to waste and processes them for use in other sustainable products.
Consumers are also becoming increasingly comfortable with innovative, plant-based food alternatives, per IFIC, a trend that should continue in 2023. So, watch for more plant-based food developments and even seafood alternatives.
Patsy Ramirez-Arroyo, a food and sustainability consultant with Homera, who was part of the recent Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel, shared, “The awareness of the meatless category is driving consumers to look for alternatives in seafood, too. Key to acceptance is aligning nutritional values, texture, and flavor to those of traditional fish.”
Adriano Paganini, the founder and operator of Back of the House restaurant group in San Francisco, acknowledged the power of plant-based eating and innovative meat alternatives. “Eating plant-based is no longer fringe, and with our three plant-based restaurants, we see that a lot of our guests are not die-hard vegans, but they want to make different dining choices throughout the week,” he said. “I only see this trend increasing, especially as plant-based ingredients and replacements become more readily available and more delicious. There is a bit of a contradiction here, because our best seller is the fried chicken sandwich, so maybe it's just the illusion of making a healthier choice?”
Chef Hang Truong of Noodle Girl Restaurant in San Francisco, who was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2019, said that as the restaurant industry evolves, there will be more plant-based alternatives and vegetable-forward menu items. “I think we'll see a greater shift of steering away from meat being the highlight on entrees and focusing on local produce, plant-based proteins, mushrooms, and fermented foods,” she said. “Plant-based is important to pay attention to because as this trend evolves, there will be more competition. Supporting the producers that focus on the environment and nutrition is key.
Being Vietnamese, Truong said she has the gift of introducing traditional Vietnamese dishes that already match the plant-based trend (or can be modified to match) while still providing a wholesome meal to customers. “We purchase tofu, mushrooms, herbs, meat, and produce all locally, helping to reduce our carbon footprint, and we support local farmers at farmer's markets to provide the best quality ingredients that are in line with our values,” she said.
Restaurants Will Deliver on ‘Eatertainment,’ Theatrics and Experiences in 2023
When it comes to what’s next with restaurants and cuisine, Datassential noted “a new third place” will emerge in 2023. The firm said the restaurant industry will see a new generation of restaurant, retail, and “eatertainment” concepts, which will fulfill a consumer's need for a place beyond home and work to socialize and have a meal with friends and family.
Fernando Soberanis, the executive chef at Laurel Brasserie & Bar in Salt Lake City, Utah, said it’s all about the experience. “In 2023, we are going to be bringing more experiential eating to our guests at Laurel Brasserie & Bar,” he said. “Beyond the traditional dinner service, we are looking to expand into opportunities that enhance the guest experience. With everything from inviting the community into our kitchens to learn fine dining techniques for themselves, to working with our bar program for cocktail pairing with coursed dinners, to welcoming guest chefs to create themed events, we are working to add that extra dimension to the classic experience.”
Paganini of Back of the House restaurant group stressed that the industry needs to bring back the “razzle dazzle” in 2023. “After staying at home in our sweatpants for the past two-plus years, people are ready to see and be seen,” he said. “I've seen a resurgence in guests getting dressed up to go out, and group dining also seems to be on the rise. I think as we continue to normalize what life looks like post-pandemic, that we will see some spectacular outfits in our dining rooms. This could also extend to elaborate presentations on the table and in the glass, and creative events in the restaurants.”
Sam Bakhshandehpour, co-owner of The Electric Jane, a modern dining and live entertainment club in Nashville, Tenn., said, “Dinner theater is going to be it – live music, tableside service, other forms of entertainment or a show – whether on your plate or on the stage, it’s going to be the key in 2023.”
Bakhshandehpour also revealed that the restaurant industry needs to focus on the holistic experience beyond just amazing food and service. “People are going to take note of music, fashion, lighting, and design. A part of [it] could be collaborations with other restaurateurs, chefs, and brands.”
Farina, of Adorn Bar & Restaurant, said the restaurant industry is going to see more interactive dining in 2023. “I think the use of technology has been steadily climbing in the restaurant world and will continue in 2023. We’ll see more projection mapping and advanced AV, and maybe there will be stage crews at restaurants soon.”
Tara Mondsod, executive chef at ANIMAE in San Diego – a unique take on a West Coast steakhouse with Asian culinary influences – believes we’ll start to see crossovers between the culinary and fashion industries. “From sensory activations to co-branded merchandise, fashion brands are turning to food as a way to engage with customers and drive them to brick-and-mortar locations.”
Restaurants Will Adhere to Menu Integrity and Honesty in 2023
This year, more restaurants will push for menu and ingredient transparency, according to Bryan Tublin, the owner and co-founder of Kitava in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif.
“Consumers want to know what's in their food, and not just in a Papa John's ‘Better Ingredients, Better Pizza’ kind of way, said Tublin. “They increasingly want to know what ingredients are used – and not used – in their meals so they can make more informed dining choices.
Daniel Wolfe, founder of Howling Hospitality in the Houston area, who owns City Cellars HTX and Wolfe & Wine, said, “With cameras constantly rolling and the popularity of TikTok and video sharing apps, restaurants are going to have to start being honest about their menus and ingredients. Terms like ‘homemade,’ ‘house made,’ ‘fresh,’ and “made from scratch” will not be able to be thrown around as easily, thanks to TikTok. Example – our ‘housemade’ bbq sauce is Sweet Baby Rays that we pour in a ramekin, vs. our ‘made from scratch’ mac balls are fully made from scratch – from the pasta, to the sauce, to the rolling, breading, etc. I hope by forcing restaurants to be honest about what’s made in-house vs. what comes out of a jar leads diners to better quality food and restaurants are able to offer more unique experiences.”
MICRO FOOD TRENDS FOR RESTAURANTS IN 2023
Our panel of chefs and experts also highlighted some of the smaller trends to watch and be inspired by in 2023.
Unique New Flavors and Brews
Datassential’s food and flavor trends report for 2023 identified some of the flavors and ingredients that will be everywhere this year, including: mangonada, yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit), spicy maple, ube (a purple yam from the Philippines), new mushrooms, birria (a Mexican dish), salsa macha, soju (an alcohol drink from Korea), London fog, and ranch water (a cocktail). Other flavors and ingredients to watch include cherry blossom, verjuice, next-level cannabis, pickled strawberries, sisig (a Filipino dish), and black tahini.
Lyons Magnus said to look for more brewed alternatives to traditional coffees and teas in 2023. A few that caught their attention are yaupon (a species of holly and one of only two known plants indigenous to the United States), Mushroom coffee (a brew typically made from a blend of coffee and medicinal mushrooms), Japanese hojicha tea (a green tea that’s first steamed and then roasted before steeping, as well as caffeinated alternatives to coffee such as refreshers and energy drinks on more breakfast menus.
More Chefs Will Use All Parts of the Protein
Seth Stowaway, the executive chef and owner of Osito in San Francisco, Calif., said the restaurant industry will embrace all parts of proteins. At Osito, Stowaway and his team are moving away from the typical “prized cut” on their menus.
“We feel like it is time to show all of the other wonderful parts,” he said. “A few examples include a tart filled with braised lamb leg in the Spring and a mole glazed beef terrine of beef cheek, which is now transitioning to oxtails. And on the upcoming menu, instead of serving duck breast, the main course will include small dishes featuring every part of the duck – heart, liver, tongue, skin, brain, wing, leg and breast – in a non-traditional preparation for a main.”
Dry-Aging Fish Is on the Way in a Bigger Way
Peter Hemsley – chef and proprietor at Palette in San Francisco, Calif. – noted that everyone is familiar with dry-aged beef in steakhouses, including the glass-lined and illuminated cooler boxes in bovine-centric meat eateries. He said sometimes these displays take up an entire section of a wall, providing ambiance by way of “meat decor,” but also serving as preservation spaces that develop both flavor and texture of the meat. However, what if these same dry-aging boxes were used for fish preservation, asked Hemsley?
“Old fish goes against everything we have been conventionally taught in culinary practice, so where did this turn come about?” Hemsley said. “Well, the Japanese have apparently been practicing dry-aging with their favorite protein – fish – for hundreds of years, without Western civilization catching on. It's true that sushi was a tough one to wrap our minds around, but now that we have gotten over our queasiness around raw fish, it's all but universal across the states, from coast to coast.”
According to Hemsley, the bug for dry-aging fish has caught on strongly in California and the West Coast, inspired by the exploratory work of Chef Josh Niland in Australia, author of The Whole Fish Cookbook, and Lewei Laio, “The Dry Aged Fish Guy” of The Joint in Los Angeles.
Mushrooms and Truffles Will Take Their Place in the Spotlight
Vincenzo Borriello, executive chef at RWSB (Restaurant W South Beach) of KNR Hospitality Group, shared that mushrooms and truffles will be big in 2023. “With the skyrocketing costs of goods, produce is still less expensive than meat or fish,” said Borriello. “At RWSB, we’re seeing more and more requests for health-conscious menu items, from sustainable products to plant-based ingredients. So, chefs are challenging themselves to create amazing food dishes using only plant-based products like mushrooms, for example, which are becoming a big trend for 2023.”
Borriello and his team have added several plant-based dishes at RWSB, most of them containing the mushroom and truffle. On the menu, you’ll find dishes like soft polenta with mushroom and fresh shaved seasonal truffle, and whipped ricotta cheese with truffle honey and shaved truffle.
Executive Chef Hunter Evans, Elvie’s, also noted mushrooms: “Aside from being one of my favorite ingredients to cook, I think as our foodways continue to change the way we eat meat, we will see a lot of people turning to and cooking all sorts of varieties of mushrooms.”
Pickling and Fermentation Will Achieve Even More Mainstream Success
Isaac Toups, the chef and owner of Toups Meatery in New Orleans, La., said pickling will be big in 2023. “I have always been vinegar obsessed, and I pickle anything I can get my hands on,” said Toups. “I think we will see 2023 as a big year for pickling because: a) fermented foods and vinegar are incredible for gut balance and health, and more people are seeing the benefits, and b) pickling costs very little and has such a long shelf life.”
Toups explained that with everything being more expensive now, pickled foods offer a great way to keep things on hand that will last. “Plus, pickling is so relaxing and it’s pretty easy to do,” he said. “These days, I’m pickling quail eggs, pineapple, squash, jalapenos, and much more, and using them on our signature Meatery Board at the restaurant.”
Kelly O’Hara, corporate executive chef of SFL Hospitality Group in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he oversees the culinary direction of Canyon, YOT Bar & Kitchen, South PMP Bar & Kitchen and other establishments, said the implementation of fermentation will grow in 2023.
“Using in-house fermentation to create things like umami paste and kombucha will become a common practice in many restaurant settings,” shared O’Hara. “This thousand-year-old technique is now achieving mainstream popularity with more people becoming educated on the health benefits and power of creating unique flavor profiles from common ingredients. Fermentation was once thought of as a challenging technique but is now becoming more prominent within the F&B space as people seek foods beneficial for their health.”
A BETTER BACK-OF-HOUSE: ON THE MINDS OF RESTAURANT PROS
As mentioned earlier, while the focus of this report is on food trends for the year, many chefs and restaurant experts wanted to talk about a better back-of-house as something they’re focusing on in 2023.
Tara Gallina, co-owner of Take Root Hospitality, which includes Vicia in St. Louis, Mo., said, “More than anything, we are happy to see that the restaurant industry as a whole is starting to recognize that sustainability means more than just knowing where your food comes from, it means creating a sustainable workplace culture for people working within the industry.”
Gallina said Take Root Hospitality works hard to create great job opportunities with above average industry wages, benefits, and a positive culture that respects and values team members, while providing education and opportunities for upward mobility within the company. “This is so much more than a trend and something we hope to see continue throughout our industry,” she said.
Chad Huff, executive chef at Marisi in La Jolla, Calif., predicted that in 2023, cooks will demand higher salaries and healthier working conditions for their labor. “Due to a high demand for cooks in our post-pandemic world, this group of professionals has been given a unique opportunity to demand more from the restaurant industry than ever before,” he said.
Huff noted that not only will kitchen laborers be better compensated for their work, they will also cease to tolerate toxic and degrading kitchen environments: “Chefs of old, shouting and demeaning, can end and a living wage for cooks can reign.”
Laura Warren, who serves as the executive pastry chef for all the restaurants under the San Diego-based Puffer Malarkey Collective umbrella (including Herb & Wood and Herb & Sea), also said kitchen culture will continue to be reshaped as a result of COVID-19. “The pandemic has shifted the way we, as a culture, view work-life balance,” Warren explained. “Ten-to-12-hour workdays with minimum pay just aren't cutting it anymore.”
In an effort to improve staff retention, Warren said restaurants will implement mental health days, wellness stipends, and career path frameworks, as employee perks.
And it’s not just about the work environment improvements when it comes to back-of-house. Restaurants will embrace technologies even more in 2023, to create efficiencies. Greg Kuzia-Carmel, chef and owner at Canteen in Menlo Park, Calif., summed it up: “Where technology can help liaise on behalf of the operations and their guests in real time, this will create meaningful savings and efficiencies. In a more pragmatic sense, it will also give rise to inventive and quirky ways for restaurants and hospitality operators to engage with their audience and, in hope, create value.”
Aaron Kiel, based in Raleigh, N.C., has worked in the beverage, tea and coffee industries for nearly two decades. He’s a journalist and writer at heart, but he also wears a PR hat through his consultancy, ak PR Group. He works as the editor of World Tea News with Questex’s Bar & Restaurant Group, as well as a contributing writer for Bar & Restaurant.
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