10 Foodservice Trends for 2017 and their E&S Implications

New year, new trends. Here we take a look at what’s on the horizon for this year in terms of concepts, food, beverage and more, and the impact these trends will likely have on equipment, supplies and design.

Listed in no particular order, we pulled from the National Restaurant Association, restaurant and hospitality consultants Andrew Freeman & Co., and Datassential to formulate this Top 10 list.

Trend: Hyper-Local Sourcing

Ranked as the No. 1 trend in the “concept” category of the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot list, more chefs and noncommercial operators like colleges and even high schools continue to build their own onsite rooftop gardens, hydroponic systems and indoor, vertical gardens to grow their own food as a supplement to sourcing from local, sustainable farmers.

Implication: More mobile/space-saving hydroponic and vertical garden equipment, planter boxes, gardening supplies and more available for purchase and installation on a commercial level.

Trend: Chef-Driven Fast-Casual Concepts

lowresHonorSocietyHonor Society's chef-driven menu focuses on seasonal, made-from-scratch items.Last year’s chef-driven movement carries into 2017 with chefs exploring fast-casual concepts as a way to introduce  concepts that serve as an alternative to the traditional fine dining approach.   These concepts also cost less to build out and  have fewer requirements for highly trained, fine-dining staff. The popularity of the concepts comes in response to consumers seeking high-quality, chef-driven food in more affordable, casual and family-friendly settings. This ranked No. 2 on the NRA’s list of Top 10 Concept Trends. Andrew Freeman & Co. refers to these fast-casual concepts as “cafeteria-style operations” that offer a variety of options for guests, from hot to cold, healthy to indulgent.

Implication: Multi-use, very durable equipment like flattop grills for quick-cooking , hot/cold sandwiches, prep stations that hold a wider range of ingredients for customizable meals. Chipotle-like counter service that allows customers  to peek into the kitchen seems to be a must. Many of these modern concepts also showcase unique, well-thought-out designs meant to enhance the overall experience for the guests.

Trend: Mediterranean/Middle Eastern/African Cuisine

lowresHarissaHarissa is spicy chile paste widely used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking to enhance soups, stews and other dishes.“People are embracing flavors farther eastward in the Mediterranean and Middle East,” Andrew Freeman & Co.’s expert chef John Griffiths wrote in a report. “I expect to see a further incorporation of Turkish, and Middle Eastern spice combinations and dishes. With so many men and women of the military stationed abroad in these regions and Afghanistan over the last decade, I think our acceptance of those cuisines will increase.”

The consultancy points to restaurants like Mamnoon in Seattle and ILILI in New York City that showcase these bold flavors in modern ways. African, and particularly North African cuisine in the form of rich tagines, spice-forward dishes and harissa as a top condiment, also continues to trend. The NRA ranked African cuisine No. 10 on its list of the top 20 food trends for this year, and according to Datassential, 42 percent of consumers are interested in Moroccan cuisine. Moroccan dish menu occurrence has increased a whopping 173 percent on menus over the past decade, even popping up at chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse.

Implication: Greater use of imported and specialty equipment like tandoori ovens, tagines (earthenware pots for slow-cooking stews), and mortar and pestles for grinding spice blends.

Trend: Food Waste Reduction

Four percent to 10 percent of food purchased by a foodservice operation gets discarded before ever reaching a guest, according to LeanPath. The issue ranked No. 7 on the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot list of 2017 trends. The hard work many members of the industry have done to educate the greater public about food waste and reduction seems to be paying off as more operators now  embrace what was once a special, sustainable initiative reserved for the few into standard operating procedure.

Implication: Increased use of on-site composting and recycling bins, as well as digesters for collecting and processing pre- and post-consumer waste to reduce hauling fees and the load sent to landfills.

Trend: House-Made Charcuterie and Fermented Foods

We’ve already seen more chefs making their own charcuterie as they look to put their own stamp on ingredients and foods they offer their guests. The NRA identified the trend as well, ranking it No. 4 on its top 20 trends list. As more chefs order primal meat parts and whole animals, they look to charcuterie as a way to make the most of their purchase and not just cut down on food costs, but add more sources for profit.

Following the trend to make everything  in-house, many chefs now  tread lightly into the world of fermentation as some health departments have begun to allow this, providing the operation has the right paperwork and HAACP controls. In a throwback to old school preservation techniques, fermentation brings out more flavors in different foods and introduces beneficial bacteria said to improve gut health, as Andrew Freeman & Co. pointed out in its 2017 trends report. From simple sauerkraut and Korean kimchi to vinegars and kombucha (the fermented and effervescent Japanese tea), these umami-rich foods and beverages round out more modern menus. Baroo in Los Angeles serves up fermented gochujang, a Korean condiment to kick up a tomato-based salad dressing, while Fish & Game in Hudson, N.Y., showcases house-fermented fish sauce, vinegar and vermouth in different dishes and cocktails.

Implication: More prep tables and space and shelving for storage as well as glass jars and other containers to store products. For charcuterie, we might see more higher-end or more durable grinders, mixers and slicers and in some cases, separate, temperature-controlled aging rooms.

Trend: Meal Kits

Continuing into this year after a strong 2016, many predict the world of meal kits will expand even more, especially in supermarkets and perhaps even into the B&I and healthcare segments as a value-added service for employees. The trend ranked No. 8 on The NRA What’s Hot list.

Implication: Expanded use of commissary kitchens, more advanced packaging meant for reheating and sustainable disposal.

Trend: Food Halls and Flex Use Spaces

According to Andrew Freeman & Co., we first saw food halls pop up back in 2015, but they have since continued to explode across the country. “In many ways, this is a vehicle for allowing the guest to craft their own experience,” the report stated. “But this trend is also great for the individual operators inside, where low barriers to entry give the flexibility to experiment.” Food halls like Swans in Oakland, Avanti in Denver and Revival Food Hall in Chicago showcase the best of independent operators and top chefs all under one roof. Other chefs and restaurateurs have experimented with similar flex-type space, adding markets and retail spaces connected to their restaurants. Centrolina in Washington, D.C., features a chic Italian restaurant and gourmet market in the same space, while 3 Arts Club combines a coffeehouse, wine bar and American restaurant in Restoration Hardware’s gorgeous flagship store in Chicago.

Trend: Natural Ingredients/Clean Menus and Nutrition

Ranked No. 3 and 10, respectively, on the NRA What’s Hot list, consumers have more options to eat healthier while dining out than ever before. Many consumers are forgoing fork-and-knife meals altogether in favor of veggie and superfood-packed smoothies that make quick, on-the-go lunches and mini-meals. And the raw food movement continues to pick up as consumers become more aware of this higher level of nutrition.

Implication: More equipment for making things from scratch, from commercial food processors to mixers, dehydrators for raw food production, juicers and blenders for cold-pressed juices and smoothies as well as refrigerated prep tables for salads and more prep space for chopping fresh vegetables daily.

Trend: Locally-Roasted Coffee

While many consumers remain loyal to larger concepts like Starbucks, we’re seeing more coffee connoisseurs in urban settings flock to smaller, artisan coffee shops. Overall, though, consumers demand better coffee when they visit restaurants of all types, from fast-casual outlets to fine-dining establishments. Operators and chefs are responding.

Implication: “Third-wave” coffee equipment and supplies like pour-over carafes and hot water kettles, more authentic, higher end espresso machines, grinders for fresh beans, and brewers with advanced controls for maintaining freshness. Nitro taps for coffee are also becoming more popular in shops, but also in restaurants, where cocktail artists uses them for coffee-infused drinks.

Trend: Unique Frozen Desserts

Restaurants are exploring with more unique, house-made ice creams and frozen desserts like soft-serve matcha at Cha Cha Matcha in NYC and Thai-rolled ice cream at Class 502 in Houston, according to Andrew Freeman & Co. Some outlets have explored offering higher-end gelato as a specialty dessert.

Implication: More sales of gelato makers, soft-serve machines and ice cream makers that are compact enough to fit in busy restaurant kitchens.

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