Restaurant customers can expect to see health taking center stage on restaurant menus in 2022. The National Restaurant Association today released its annual What's Hot Culinary Forecast, which offers a detailed look at the topics, trends, and products expected to drive restaurant menus in the coming year across a variety of categories including daypart occasions, menu categories, beverages, flavors, global inspirations, packaging/off-premises trends and industry macro-trends.
After demand for comfort food surged during the height of the pandemic, consumers are refocusing on better-for-you options, with foods that are believed to have immunity-boosting qualities and plant-based sandwiches making up three of the Top 10 Trends for 2022. Plant-based proteins are growing increasingly popular on menus and less expensive cuts of protein, such as thighs instead of wings, will have a greater presence in the year to come.
Sustainability will continue to influence menus and how restaurants make decisions across the board. From reusable and recyclable packaging to zero-waste options, restaurants are continuing to prioritize sustainable initiatives. As consumers continue to use off-premises options in all dayparts, restaurants are looking to translate their dine-in experience outside the four walls of the restaurant with thoughtful packaging that maintains food quality, retains temperature, and is tamper-proof.
"In addition to a return to health-focused menu offerings and more eco-friendly, improved off-premises packaging, all of which rated high in the top trends, we're expecting operators to look across their menus for transformative opportunities," said Hudson Riehle, senior vp of research for the Association. "Look for trends that fuse the traditional meal daypart items with other dayparts and an increasing popularity of snacking and its allied items. Also, with the popularity of cocktails-to-go during the pandemic, restaurants will look to expand both alcoholic and non-alcoholic craft beverage options."
Menus will become more refined and streamlined going into the year ahead, while chefs anticipate alcohol-infused desserts, globally inspired items, and even upscale potato chips to find spots on the menu.
The What's Hot survey was conducted in October 2021. More than 350 professional chefs of the American Culinary Federation rated 109 food items and culinary concepts compiled by Association experts and Technomic's Menu Research & Insights Division.