Our series on 2023 trends rolls on, and this time we take a look at the 15th annual af&co./Carbonate Hospitality Trends Report. If you missed our first installments, be sure to go back and read up on what the holiday season and 2023 will bring, what will be big in hospitality 2023, a look at the on-premise in 2023, and flavors trending next year.
It’s clear that the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to shape the hospitality industry—albeit in different ways than in years past. Inflation, labor challenges, supply chain disruptions, and the desire to create more inclusive and supportive workplaces continue to shift the way the industry operates. Our relationship with technology—from online ordering, to website development, to social media management—was completely up-ended during the pandemic, as brands had to engage digitally like never before. The opportunities and challenges around technology, and the ways it integrates into our lives, will continue to shape and shift how people experience, interact with, and become loyal to brands in the years ahead.
In addition to these factors, restaurant and bar guests have changed. They are more discerning and more demanding. There is a desire to engage with hospitality brands in ways that are experiential, educational, and personal, and to feel a sense of value in what they're receiving at all price points. Additionally, dining patterns and occasions have been impacted, as work from home has created new opportunities for some businesses and persistent challenges for others.
In the 15th anniversary edition of the annual af&co./Carbonate Hospitality Trends Report, we present a comprehensive overview of the trends and practices that will shape the industry in 2023 by identifying key influences in food, beverage, hotels & travel, design marketing, and social media. Read on for a snapshot of next year’s top trends—and how brands can use these insights to increase relevance and attract business.
Hottest Dish of the Year: Maitake Mushrooms
Creative chefs looking for meaty alternatives to actual meat have long favored mushrooms—and maitakes are the new “it” varietal, taking the place of yesteryear’s grilled portobellos. Often served roasted or fried, the craggly surface makes for an explosion of texture, while also capturing any bit of flavorful sauce or dressing. It may not taste like a burger, but it is incredibly satisfying, and it is even showing up alongside meat and seafood.
● Hartley Kitchen & Cocktails (Atlanta, GA) Chicken Fried Mushrooms with house-made ranch dressing
● Birdbox’s (San Francisco, Ca) vegetarian take on their Claude the Claw fried chicken sandwich features hen of the woods confited in cremini mushroom butter, seared on a plancha, then fried and dusted with a porcini seasoning. Served with pickle relish and mushroom jam mayo
● Little Mad, (New York, NY) is known for their inspired Korean-American cuisine and their Fried Buhsut, deep-fried maitake mushrooms served with sour cream and onion dip, presented inside a halved onion
Cuisine of the Year: Filipino
According to 2021 data from the Pew Research Center, the Asian population in the USA doubled between 2000 and 2019. Filipino Americans make up the third largest group at 19%, or approximately 4.6 million people. Over the last decade, Filipino food has gained increased recognition in the U.S. Popular pop-ups have become multi-store brick & mortars; Filipino chefs have won national and international awards or become YouTube stars; popular Filipino mash-ups have attracted large audiences; and last year Jollibee Foods Corporation, the Filipino fast-food multi-restaurant group, announced plans to launch 300 stores across the U.S. Now, Filipino restaurants are becoming dining destinations with national acclaim—and booking out months in advance.
● Abaca (San Francisco, CA) a contemporary Filipino-Californian restaurant, was called one of the best new restaurants in America by both Esquire magazine and The New York Times
● Lasita (Los Angeles) is a Filipino rotisserie and natural wine bar earning national attention and called one of the Top 50 New Restaurants in America by Bon Appetit
● Kasama (Chicago, IL) opened during the pandemic to huge acclaim, Kasama earned their first Michelin star for their modern Filipino restaurant and bakery offering exquisite pastries, casual breakfast and lunch, and fine dining tasting menu in the evening
Dessert of the Year: Baked Alaska
A dessert that experiences a resurgence every few decades—in large part thanks to its tableside theatrics and show stopping presentation—the classic Baked Alaska is back in full force. Modern iterations may be super-sized to share, flamed tableside, or deconstructed—no matter the presentation, it’s hard to go wrong with ice cream, sorbet, or semifreddo topped with torched meringue. And the show makes it all the more worthwhile!
● Gage & Tollner (New York, NY) offers Baked Alaska for two with chocolate, mint, and cherry ice cream on a bed of chocolate cookie crumbs
● The Vault Steakhouse (San Francisco, CA) - Baked Alaska with peach ice cream, fresh peaches, toasted almond, raspberry, flambéd tableside
● Mid-City Restaurant (Cincinnati, OH) offers an inexpensive Baked Alaska featuring peach ice cream on a bed of olive oil cake
Drink of the Year: The New Seafood Cocktail
In the 80s and 90s, popular cocktails tended toward sweet; in the early aughts, bitter was big; now in 2022, briny is back in style. We’re not just talking about dirty martinis, but the newly branded “coastal” cocktails that embrace oceanic flavors and ingredients, often with an eye-catching edible garnish.
● Bluestem Restaurant & Market (San Francisco, CA) “Cioppino” cocktail includes salted tomato water, tequila, lime, citrus, serrano chili and clam juice
● Cathédral’s (New York, NY) An Affair to Remember comes with rye vodka. Salers Aperitif, olive brine, and comes garnished with a raw oyster and caviar
● Small Change Oyster Bar (Oakland, CA) from the same owner as the Shuck It! pop-up, serves micheladas garnished with a crab claw, shrimp and a raw oyster
Nigerian Food Pops Up
Nigerian and West African food (of which Nigeria plays a significant part) is attracting a wider audience—gaining prominence and prestige where it was once overlooked and under-represented. Based on the foodways of hundreds of different ethnic groups, Nigerian cuisine is incredibly rich and varied, featuring rice and legumes, soups, and stews layered with aromatic spices and chilis. Jollof Rice prepared with tomato, onion, spices, and fiery-hot scotch bonnet chilis is perhaps the best known dish. Others include Pepper Soup and Suya, seasoned, grilled meats on a skewer. Some Nigerian chefs are using fine-dining, dinner-party style meals as an educational opportunity to teach others about their culture. It’s a chance to taste, talk, and discover something new in a vibrant multi-sensory cultural exchange.
● Ilé (Los Angeles, CA) is a pop-up offering a 4-course $120, or 9-course $250 Nigerian meals two days a week
● Dept. of Culture (New York, NY) has earned acclaim for its dinner-party style, multi-course tasting menu, and was named one of the Top 50 Best New Restaurants in the Country by Bon Appetit
● Celebrity Chef Kwame Onwuachi will feature Nigerian Egusi Soup Dumplings at his upcoming restaurant Tatiana in Lincoln Center (New York, NY).
Ube is Ubiquitous
For many, the first encounter with this bright purple ingredient is in Filipino desserts, such as Halo Halo. For others, it may be bubble tea. In either case, its pleasant sweet flavor and eye-catching hue has propelled this ingredient’s popularity on Instagram with chefs embracing ways to push the color further forward. Your concept doesn’t have to embrace Asian flavors—simply treat Ube as a purple version of a Southern sweet potato.
● The Baldwin Bar’s (Woburn, MA) Halo Halo cocktail combines ube with light rum, cachaça, coconut milk, condensed milk, pineapple and lime
● The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort (Maui, HI) serves Ube Pancakes with ube coconut cream and fresh berries
● Senor Sisig (San Francisco, CA) introduced Ube-Macapuno Churros and Ube Horchata at their newest location in the Ferry Building.
Two-Digit Tasting Menus
Despite inflation, rising food and labor costs, and supply chain issues, many restaurants are finding a way to offer more affordable tasting menus. Distinctly different from the largely European, white-tablecloth versions more commonly known, the format allows chefs to express their creativity and to menu plan more accurately, thus controlling costs of both food and labor. For consumers, they offer a unique opportunity to experience the bounds of a chef’s creativity—for a fraction of the price.
● Kinn (Los Angeles, CA) offers a $50, 5-course tasting menu
● Rabbit’s (New York, NY) serves a 12-course $75 vegan tasting menu
● Lengua Madre (New Orleans, LA) offers a five-course tasting menu for $70, rooted in traditional Mexican cuisine
Cocktails for a Crowd
There has been an exuberant return to the conviviality of shared large-format cocktails, as people throng together looking for some fun and personal connection. But don’t expect the pitchers or scorpion bowls of the past, as hip and happening cocktail bars are introducing new, aesthetically pleasing and interactive ways for people to share a spirited drink.
● Bar West (Sacramento, CA) reopened in 2022 with a new bar menu including six different 96 oz. “fishbowls” meant for sharing
● Hazie’s (San Francisco, CA) Go Ask Her with tequila, orgeat, strawberry syrup, lime, and agave serves 4-5
● Tipsy Alchemist (Austin, TX) Disco Mule, made with Absolut Elyx, ginger, lime, ginger beer, lime-ginger brulee, and mint
● Causwells (San Francisco, SF) reopened with a new bar menu introducing large format martinis for four, served tableside, arriving on a tray with a carafe and garnishes for each person to pick from
Salted Egg Yolk: The Next Pumpkin Spice
Thanks in part to the rise of bubble tea and Vietnamese coffee, another Asian favorite has started to cross over to mainstream America—salted egg yolk drinks. The rich, custardy flavor is backed by umami notes, creating something that is sweet, savory, and a bit elusive, drawing you back for more. With people eager to discover how to make this at home, the hashtag #saltedeggyolk has 11.5M views on TikTok. When Torani calls Salted Egg Yolk the “Flavor of the Year” you can be sure it’s coming to your local coffee shop soon. Better latte than never.
● Torani introduced Salted Egg Yolk Syrup declaring it the “Flavor of the Year”
● Phởcific Standard Time’s (Seattle, WA) serves a Vietnamese egg coffee cocktail “Cà Phê Trứng.”
Cocktails for the Kid in You
The macro cultural trend of brands leaning into nostalgia is manifesting itself in various ways within the hospitality industry—including childhood sweets getting the grown-up treatment. We’re seeing restaurants and bars around the country introduce everything from cocktails based on sugary breakfast cereals and ice cream floats, to drinks with popsicles, pop rock rims, and even the return of the jello shot.
● Summer House (Chicago) Cinnamon Toast Brunch featuring Dottie May's Oat Milk Cream Liqueur, aged rum and cinnamon, in a nostalgic ode to the childhood breakfast cereal and the flavored milk at the bottom of the bowl—with a grown-up kick.
● Café No Sé (Austin, TX) offers two boozy pour overs featuring upside down popsicles with beer or wine poured over top, like the Mangonada with a mango chamoy popsicle topped with Modelo Especial.
● Bar star Julie Reiner reopened Milady’s (New York, NY) with a nostalgic menu including “Jigglers” house-made jello shots and a boozy root beer float.
DM Meets CRM
Social media is more than a means for brand messaging, it’s a two-way communication platform that has been leading the charge in customer service. With a decrease in overall workforce in the restaurant and hospitality industry, and a very vocal customer base, social media is increasingly being used for customer care—meeting the customers where they are, answering questions and creating dialogue, thus building a relationship without needed extra hands on the floor. Social media for restaurants is no longer only a marketing opportunity, but also an important operations function.
TikTok is Eating it Up (And So Are Its Users)
TikTok’s short-form video has quickly become a significant driver for restaurant traffic amongst its users. Considering Tiktok has been the fastest growing social media channel for the past two years, this is a large, and growing audience of almost 87 million people in the U.S. alone. In a survey of TikTok users conducted by marketing agency MGH, they found that the platform is driving a surprising level of specific restaurant behaviors including:
● 53% of millennials on TikTok in the U.S. have visited or ordered food from a restaurant after seeing it on the app
● 38% of U.S. TikTok users across all age groups have visited or ordered food from a restaurant after seeing a video on the app about it
● Roughly 30% of users have traveled longer distances for new dining experiences after seeing a video for the restaurant
● 28% claimed to spend more money than they usually would on dining out after seeing a TikTok video for the place in question
Despite the unknown factors ahead, there are several consistent themes we predict will continue to hold true for industry leaders: Those who demonstrate concept clarity, resilience, creativity, and the courage to do something new will remain at forefront for years to come.