F&B Innovation Center Chefs Share Food Trend Predictions

Okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake sometimes called "Japanese pizza." Image: artran / iStock / Getty Images Plus (Okonomiyaki Japanese hot plate pizza)

We asked ten incredible, innovative chefs for their 2020 culinary trends and insights.

Each of these chefs are featured at this year’s F&B Innovation Conference, co-located with Nightclub & Bar Show 2020.

From vegetables taking starring roles to delivery issues, our chefs had a lot to say. We’re excited to share their insights with you here and for you to learn from them in person in March.

Chef Brian Duffy

“There are huge issues with to-go and delivery options. Packaging is more expensive and with states now banning the use of plastic and Styrofoam, how is a restaurant supposed to make it all work? Uber Eats and a few others are taking full advantage of the situation by charging restaurants 30 percent for being in their systems. If food cost is 30 percent, labor is 20 percent, liquor is 20 percent and fixed costs are in the 12 to 18 percent range, how is a restaurant supposed to now add a 30 percent charge on top of each order?

“Our guests are so much more educated than they were before and they want to know where this stuff is coming from. They want bigger, bolder flavors. When it comes to children’s menus and new options, the days of a mac & cheese and a kid’s burger are gone—what are you doing? The food list that has been put together by Forbes is a staggering list of what consumers should expect to see in the next year.”

Give this a read: What Plant-based Diets Mean for Bars and Restaurants

Chef Duffy predicts the following are going to be hot in 2020:

  • Continued fear of and flight from sugar
  • Porchetta
  • Hard kombucha
  • Cacao fruit everything
  • Okonomiyaki (“Yes, every year this makes my list.”)
  • Avocados everywhere
  • “Bowls, bowls, blah, blah…”
  • Egg snacks and apps: deviled, Scotch, crisps, wraps, dipping, etc.
  • Plant-based everything 
  • Romanesco (“Dare I say the next kale?”)
  • Korean fusion

Chef Nick Liberato

“As we move into 2020, I feel my guests at my restaurants are paying more attention to plastic products and what sustainable products are being used on menus, and what it takes to operate a business. I took the step two years ago to make sure all plastic products were taken off our orders and my restaurants are now Ocean Friendly Restaurants. Along with that, so many more guests are becoming that much more health conscious, including chefs. I’m also seeing restaurants are allowing far less modifications to their menus, which is a plus to the consistency of food that comes out of the kitchen. I understand that people have many modifications and allergies that can alter many menus, but it defeats the whole purpose of experiencing what that venue wants the guest to experience. They should just play chef at home if they want to make their own food.”

Chef Kayla Robison

“I believe (and hope) the bar and restaurant industry is leaning more toward a healthier work/life balance. Recently, a lot of chef-owners have implemented sober lifestyles for themselves, as well as in their establishments (no shift drinks). In doing so, they have started to change the narrative of the drinking, drugs and overall unhealthy habits we industry people tend to have and focus more on the mental and physical health of our employees. At Arnold’s, we have established those policies for many years now and it’s been a huge reason for our success as a business.”

Chef Tu David Phu

“Palate shift towards cuisine with complex and heavy spices (African, South Asian and Latin America), plant-based will become more prominent, fermented Beverages, and sugar replaced with sugar substitutes like alcoholic sugar, monk fruit, etc.”

Give this a read: The Culinary Trend Poised for Popularity in 2020

Chef Monti Carlo

“Veggies are going to be flexing hard on all menus. Vegan and vegetarian options are going to get center stage instead of being an afterthought. Look for old-school meat-based comfort foods with a plant-based makeover: Think vegan pot pies, pasta smothered in mushroom Bolognese, and loaded veggie tacos.”

Chef Pete Blohme aka "Panini Pete"

“For me, I think a lot of the emerging trends that I look for and pay attention to—especially in a bar format or club format—pertain to how you deliver intriguing quality food that’s interesting and easy to execute. We’re in a time when labor is getting more expensive yet less qualified, so how do you use technology and creativity to stay consistent without having to compromise what you’re doing but being realistic as to the challenges of doing business? Too many times a bar or club owner may depend on the profits of the alcohol and take a bath on the food. You should be able: to serve quality food and make money to keep people in your establishments; have food join beverage-grade ingredients; have simple preparations; and train, train, train your people!”

Chef Jennifer Behm-Lazzarni

“Plant-based food items are on the trend! But you need to make them sexy for the meat eater too!  Marking items that are keto and gluten-free are on the trend and help your staff move quicker through menu questions :)”

Chef Chad Rosenthal

“Great food and service just isn't good enough anymore… You must deliver an ‘experience.’ Experiences cannot be delivered through Amazon. Experiences will never go away!”

Give this a read: The New Night Out: Eatertainment, Drink & Be Merry

Chef Matt Varga

“In 2020, I think we are going to see a lot more emphasis on communal dining. Classic dishes will be showcased in new and creative ways. More chefs will be getting back to that less-is-more way of thinking, taking a minimalistic approach to cooking a plating. I see the drive towards higher-end ingredients and a concentration of quality over quantity. I see more tableside plating and presentations creating a more interactive dining experience. In 2020, you will likely see more restaurants offering tasting menu experiences. I see a continued push on more dairy-free and gluten-free menu options, and vegetable-driven cuisine with healthier options. 2020 will bring with it new and creative mocktails with restaurants looking to capitalize on alcohol-free guests.”

Chef Kevin Des Chenes

We are seeing a change in thinking regarding Restaurant & Bar menus. It used to be a seasonally changing menu was the norm, but we are moving towards monthly, weekly and even daily changes and updates to keep in line with what is locally fresh and readily available. It is a great way to use fresh product and produce, and give our customers and regulars an ever-changing Cuisine & Cocktail experience!"

Our chefs are cooking up what’s next in culinary! Register today and make sure to dedicate portions of your schedule to the live cooking demos taking place at this year's F&B Innovation Center. Chef Duffy is hosting the “F&B Innovation Workshop: Menu Analysis & Design Strategies” workshop and “Out with the Old & In with the New: Time to Change that Menu!” session. He’ll be partnering with Chef Nick Liberato of The Venice Whaler and Restaurants on the Edge docuseries, Chef Tu David Phu from pop-up BanhMi-Ni and Top Chef, Chef Kayla Robison of Arnold’s Bar and Grill, and Chef Matt Varga of Gracie’s during the panel “What's Next in Culinary Trends with Award-Winning Chefs.” Chef Duffy, Chef Pete “Panini Pete” Blohme of Panini Pete’s, Chef Chad Rosenthal of The Lucky Well, and Dylan Holcomb of Hot Mixology are teaming up to present “Your Guide on Food & Beverage Features, LTOs & Specials to Drive Demand.” Don’t miss out!


Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants Program