Keeping the foodservice equipment marketplace up to date with the latest menu and concept trends.


Globally Inspired Salads

The National Restaurant Association’s 2023 “What’s Hot Culinary Forecast” predicts globally inspired salads will be a top trend this year.

Concept Close-Up: Bai Tong

trend Green Papaya Salad Som Tum 1Bai Tong’s signature salad, Som Tum.In 1989, former Thai Airways flight attendant Chanpen Lapangkura wanted to provide the airline’s crew with authentic Thai food. She opened a restaurant by the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; then, as business grew, she moved the location to a former root beer stand and drive-in by the airport’s northern end. The restaurant, Bai Tong, now has four locations around Seattle. 

A signature dish is som tum (papaya salad).“The main ingredients are Thai chile, papaya, cherry tomatoes, prawns, dried shrimp, crushed peanuts, lime juice and a tamarind juice dressing,” says restaurant partner Tucky Wongpaka.

Equipment that is integral to the salad’s production includes a mortar and pestle that gently crushes the papaya and a slicer for slicing it.

“Every single table tries this salad as it’s unique and our signature,” Wongpaka says.

Bai Tong offers a selection of 10 Thai salads, including the traditional larb, which blends red and green onions, cilantro, chili, lime juice and crushed toasted rice with a choice of chicken, pork or beef. 

New Ingredients in the Mix

A variety of different salad ingredients are seeing growth on menus. Elote shows high growth (346% over 4 years), according to Datassential’s year-end 2022 “MenuTrends,” although overall menu penetration remains low (0.3%). Three notable ingredients showing favorable 12-month growth include marinara (202%), green papaya (36%) and chipotle (34%).

Top Growing Salads

The following chart itemizes the percentage of restaurants with salads on the menu that offer a particular salad (penetration), followed by a look at growth from a 12-month and 4-year perspective. 

trend chart

Chain Interpretations

Many restaurant chains have globally inspired salads on the menu. Two examples of salads with an international flair include the Falafel Salad at Fresh & Co., made with scallions, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, chickpeas, kale and romaine with lemon tahini dressing and house-made hot sauce; and the Tokyo Supergreens at Just Salad, which includes either tofu or chicken, a supergreens blend, carrots, edamame, avocado, broccoli, chopped almonds and furikake.