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


Retro and Nostalgic Foods

Comfort foods with a retro and/or nostalgic influence remain prominent on today’s menus.

Soups and Stews

Top trends in the National Restaurant Association’s 2024 “What’s Hot Culinary Forecast” include soups, stews and stuffed vegetables. Think older items with a new twist. “The trend in retro foods is local and depends on the demographic mix, but through social media channels, different retro foods are being touted,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president, NRA’s Research & Knowledge Group.

By the Numbers

Images courtesy of South Side Soda Shop DinerImages courtesy of South Side Soda Shop DinerWhen it comes to consumers, 40% at least somewhat agree that they would like restaurants to offer more nostalgic items or flavors, according to Technomic’s 2023 “Flavor Consumer Trend Report.”

Nostalgic flavors such as blue raspberry and s’mores have increased on menus (Q2 2022-Q2 2023) by 9.8% and 25%, respectively, according to Technomic’s Ignite Menu data. Looking ahead, blue raspberry is predicted to increase 114% on menus over the next two years.

New Nostalgic

Some independent operators now provide new takes on classic egg salad sandwiches using upscale additions and preparations, according to Technomic’s Ignite Menu data. Ingredient twists on an egg salad sandwich might mean pickled eggs, for example, or quail eggs.

Concept Close-Up

South Side Soda Shop Diner

Goshen, Ind.

Before it was a retro restaurant, South Side Soda Shop Diner in Goshen, Ind., was a grocery store that opened in 1910. It transformed into a diner in 1986 when Nick Boyd and his wife, Charity, took it over.

trend Pie2 Photo courtesy of South Side Soda ShopThe menu for the restaurant, which was featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” includes a variety of classic retro dishes, including its popular Philly cheesesteak, clams and homemade pies. “It’s mostly family recipes,” says Nick Boyd, like the establishment’s award-winning chili. Pies are a staple dessert item, with up to 30 pies made fresh daily, and the restaurant also makes its own fries with a spiral fryer.

The 100-seat restaurant’s equipment package includes a 4-burner range, a flattop, one fryer, and ovens for baking pies and specials. Old shake machines are used for making phosphates. “It’s not a fancy kitchen, and I wish I had space for a charbroiler,” Boyd says. 

Weekend specials include items such as lasagna, beef stroganoff, ribs, meatloaf and other “traditional diner fare that is retro,” Boyd says. “Our customers love the fact that they see me cooking, and we try and source local products through different seasons.”

Throwback ambience and nostalgic decor enhance the retro menu. “We have the original tin ceiling, a jukebox, and pennants from our high school and local college,” Boyd says. “People will give us nostalgic decor when they move, so we have old milkshake mixers; some were there when we bought the building and others were gifted.”

South Side Soda Shop Diner has been a constant through the generations; grandparents bring their grandchildren to see what they experienced growing up, Boyd says.