Food Trends to Watch in the 2014 Restaurant Arena

This time of year, everyone’s looking ahead trying to guess what the new year will bring. In the restaurant industry, there are curiosity upstarts which are likely to be passing fads, as well as a number of food trends that have been slowly gaining steam for years. Both of these menu trends are quite likely to take front and center in the years to come. Here are the highlights of some of the more important and interesting food trends for 2014.

Good-For-You and Guilt Free Dining

Both health consciousness and environmental responsibility have been movements on the rise in the general populace for years now, and all reports indicate that they aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, when asked which food fads are most likely to remain hot menu trends ten years from now, chefs around the country said environmentally sustainable foods and local sourcing are the top two movements and here to stay. This was followed by health and nutrition, children’s nutrition and gluten-free food options. 

In response to the demand for veggie, gluten-free and eco-friendly dining establishments, healthy ‘green’ restaurants are popping up all over the place and steadily moving into the mainstream. Predictions show that in 2014, early investments in green restaurants could well pay off. 

Single Item Restaurants and À La Carte Menus

As consumers get more and more accustomed to the ease and convenience of being able to order exactly what they want, when they want it, many restaurants have found success by offering extensive à la carte menus. Not only do such offerings make the customer feel catered to, but they actually can increase a restaurant’s bottom line since à la carte orders tend to ring up higher totals than traditional plate meals.

What’s more, there has also been an increase in the popularity of single item restaurants, or establishments that focus on serving only one item, and doing it extremely well. For example, there’s a restaurant in Los Angeles that specializes only in sausages. There’s another very popular bakery in Chicago that serves only meatloaf. Even gourmet PB & J and macaroni and cheese shops are being greeted with open arms. There’s something to be said for focusing on doing one thing, very well.

Strange Cuts of Meat and Novelty Items Mark 2014 Restaurant Trends

The final trend we’ll mention in this post is the recent rise in the popularity of luxury and novelty food items. While the specific ones mentioned here may be passing fads that are hot now and forgotten later, people’s love of the strange and new will never cease. Year after year, we will see trends from the novelty category hitting the top of the charts. 

This year it looks to be such items as ice cubes infused with herbs and other ingredients to flavor cocktails, strange cuts of meat such as tripe, beef tongue and beef pastrami being used in chili, and cheese steaks and sliders. Restaurants are now focusing on providing a neurosensory dining experience with meals in the dark, tactile tableware, diffusers controlling temperature and aroma, or music and visuals cued to courses. 

Some of these food trends, such as hyper-local sourcing and healthy eating, are certainly here to stay. Others, such as beef tongue in your chili, may be trends that are over before they really get going. Either way, it pays to pay attention to what’s hot now, what’s likely to stay hot in the future, and how your restaurant can best position itself to take advantage of these movements.

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