It may be cold around much of the nation but the National Restaurant Association (NRA) is talking about heat. Each year, NRA surveys nearly 1,300 professional chef members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF), to learn which foods, cuisines, beverages and culinary themes will be hot restaurant menu trends. Last month, NRA released its annual “What’s Hot” culinary forecast.


Specifically, the NRA surveyed 1,276 American Culinary Federation members October-November 2014, asking them to rate 231 items as a “hot trend,” “yesterday’s news,” or “perennial favorite” on menus in 2015. This year’s top 10 responses including healthful kids’ meal offerings, natural ingredients and farm- and estatate-branded items (see chart).


“As consumers today increasingly incorporate restaurants into their daily lives, they want to be able to follow their personal preferences and philosophies no matter where or how they choose to dine,” says Hudson Riehle, NRA’s senior vice president of research. “So, it’s only natural that culinary themes like local sourcing, sustainability and nutrition top our list of menu trends for 2015. Those concepts are wider lifestyle choices for many Americans in other aspects of their lives that also translate into the food space.”


Officials say that for the first time, the What’s Hot survey highlights overarching trends to watch in 2015:


Environmental sustainability remains among the hottest trends, with restaurateurs focusing on food waste reduction as a way to both go green and manage rising food costs.


Hyper-local sourcing continues to gain momentum with restaurants including house-made, farm-branded and artisan items.


Children’s meals are becoming increasingly gourmet and healthful, as well as more adventurous in flavor profiles.


Ethnic cuisines are continuing to become more mainstream and ethnic ingredients such as cheeses, flour and condiments are increasingly being used in non-ethnic dishes.


Common preparation methods are returning with a new twist, such as pickling with specialty vinegars and fermented flavor profiles.

When asked which current food trend will be the hottest menu trends 10 years from now, environmental sustainability topped the list, followed by local sourcing, nutrition and ethnic cuisines and flavors.


“Chefs are committed to supporting their communities and helping make responsible food choices,” says Thomas Macrina, CEC, CCA, AAC, national president of the ACF. “I am pleased that members of the American Culinary Federation continue to support local sourcing and sustainable food practices as an annual trend and are paving the way for these values to become part of everyday American cooking.”


On the drink menu, the What’s Hot in 2015 survey predicts the top five alcohol and cocktail trends will be:


  • Micro-distilled/artisan spirits
  • Locally produced beer/wine/spirits
  • Onsite barrel-aged drinks
  • Regional signature cocktails
  • Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)


The National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 990,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of more than 13.5 million employees. Visit for more information.