Throughout 2020-2021, everyone wondered if the trends that emerged in the darkest days of the pandemic would carry on once we reached the other side.
This past year, as people have largely ventured back into the world, we got some answers. Convenience, comfort, and sustainability were top of mind for consumers in recent years, and it looks like that will continue to be the case as we enter 2023.
These consumer priorities as well as ongoing industry challenges and cravings for more bold flavors will shape restaurants and menus in the coming year. Let’s dive into our predictions for what’s ahead.
While plant-based food and beverage seemed like it would continue its meteoric rise this year, the economy had other plans. Sales cooled down thanks to rising costs. But that doesn’t mean concerns about the environment have disappeared.
Instead, consumers are expecting companies to go greener and setting personal goals to decrease their own carbon footprints. Datassential found that two-thirds of Americans say making sustainable choices is important for them, and one of those choices is picking more environmentally-friendly restaurants or menu items.
Sustainable dining is about so much more than plant-based items. Consumers will admire restaurants that reduce single-use plastics, limit food waste, use eco-friendly cleaning products—anything to mitigate their environmental impact.
A few things restaurants could do:
Look beyond meat alternatives when creating vegan menu items. Sustainable foods like mushrooms, dates, and fermented vegetables are on the rise and pack a lot of flavor and texture into dishes.
Donating unsold items to food pantries addresses two societal problems at once.
Restaurants can customize eco-friendly packaging to share their message about changes they’re making to care for the planet.
Swice it Up
Our growing access to global ingredients and increasingly diverse population has had a big impact on our appetites. Americans are developing a higher heat tolerance and appreciation of umami as they taste the flavors of the world.
One hallmark of many dishes from parts of East Asia, Latin America, and other areas is that irresistible combo of sweet and spicy—”swicy” for short. These tips will help restaurants swice up their own menus for 2023:
When experimenting with swicy sauces and seasonings, keep with a beloved comfort food base, like fried chicken sandwiches or fries.
The National Restaurant Association expects flavors of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean to come to greater prominence. These areas of the globe specialize in swice, like Indonesian sambal and Jamaican jerk sauce.
Mangonada has seen an astonishing 100 percent growth on U.S. menus in the last 12 months, according to Datassential. This frozen treat brings swice to the next level by throwing in an extra splash of sour.
High (or Medium?) Tech
Despite the flashy headlines about robots, AI, and other tech developments, restaurants have bigger concerns than figuring out what the metaverse is. However, operators can’t afford to stray behind all tech trends.
Rather than implement the most cutting-edge technology, most restaurants will (and should) invest in solutions directly tied to their goals:
Trying to add more convenience to the customer experience? Test out self-service kiosks at a few locations. This will also reduce strain on front-of-house staff.
Need to improve employee retention? Explore HR platforms to improve training and onboarding.
Still getting a lot of phone orders? Investigate automated messaging solutions that will send links to callers to place their orders online, helping to improve order accuracy.
Pass the Flavored Butter
Yes, we’re talking about butter boards, which have grown beyond TikTok. But will butter boards spread to restaurants across the country? The shelf life of TikTok trends seems to be even shorter than that of butter. Then again, people love charcuterie boards and flavored butter, so wouldn’t bringing the two together be a recipe for menu success?
The jury’s still out on the future of butter boards, but prospects look great for flavored butter, regardless of how it’s presented. According to Datassential SNAP!, spiced butter and honey butter have grown 14 and 10 percent, respectively, on U.S. menus the past 12 months. Now that consumers have seen so many extravagant boards, they’ll expect inventive flavored butter from restaurants. Think floral, nutty, fruity, herbaceous, and, of course, swicy.
Your Sourcing Solution
Foodservice is still in a state of unknown, navigating labor shortages, supply chain delays, and the economy. When we reach the other side of this new set of challenges is anybody’s guess, but 2023 is set to be filled with both strain and opportunities in the industry.
Dot can help you navigate the year ahead. We have 125,000 products available to source on our website, so you can serve your customers the trends they crave.
Get ready for 2023—explore trending products today.