2016 Hot Food Trends

Food trends in restaurants for 2016 from the National Restaurant Association. 

By Kristen Castillo

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) recently released its annual list of what’s hot at restaurants. “Chefs and restaurateurs are in tune with over-arching consumer trends when it comes to menu planning but add their own twist of culinary creativity to drive those trends in new directions,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the NRA. “No one has a better view into the window of the future of food trends than the culinary professionals who lead our industry.” The NRA surveyed almost 1,600 chefs, all members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The chefs reported their picks for the top foods, beverages and culinary themes trends for the New Year.

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Local sourcing has been an upward trend for the past decade. The chefs anticipate environmental sustainability will be the big trend over the next 10 years.

According to the survey, here’s what to expect the next time you go out to eat.

Top 20 food trends for 2016:

  • Locally sourced meats and seafood – This trend is all about fresh meats and seafood that are caught or harvested nearby. Typically the food isn’t frozen, and it’s cost-efficient, as shipping and handling are reduced.
  • Chef-driven fast-casual concepts – Chefs design the menus at these casual dining restaurants.
  • Locally grown produce is hot. From tomatoes and lettuce to citrus and herbs, chefs love cooking with produce that’s grown nearby.
  • Hyper-local sourcing is popular, including house-made food and drinks; restaurant gardens and onsite brewing.
  • Natural ingredients/minimally processed food – This trend is about serving food and drinks that are natural and minimally reliant on preservatives and artificial ingredients.
  • Environmental sustainability – Restaurants and chefs are showing concern about the long-term health of the environment when sourcing food and drinks.
  • Healthful kids’ meals. No chicken nuggets here! Kids’ meals are more nutritious – with lean proteins, veggies, fruit and whole grains,
  • New cuts of meat – Tri-tip, Denver cut and pork T-bone chops are popular cuts this year.
  • Sustainable seafood – This movement is focused on sourcing seafood that is caught or farmed with respect to the long-term sustainability of the species.
  • House-made/artisan ice cream – By making ice cream in small batches, the product is fresher.
  • Ethnic condiments/spices – Forget ketchup. Reach for sriracha, chimichurri and curry instead.
  • Authentic ethnic cuisine – No imitations here! Restaurants are serving genuine ethnic foods, including Mexican, Thai and Korean cuisine.
  • Farm/estate branded items – Farms, especially local ones, are providing products made on-site foods from syrups and breads to fresh dairy.
  • Artisan butchery – This type of meat cutting is focused on being socially conscious, such as using organic meat and sourcing every possible cut.
  • Ancient grains – Think kamut, amaranth and spelt.
  • Ethnic-inspired breakfast items like chorizo scrambled eggs are popular this year.
  • Fresh/house-made sausage – Chefs are making homemade sausages as a way to showcase great recipes and quality ingredients.
  • House-made/artisan pickles – Jar pickles are passé when chefs can make their own!
  • Food waste reduction/management – Going out to eat doesn’t have to mean excess or wasteful packaging.
  • Street food/food trucks – Taco trucks and ice cream from carts on-the-go are mainstream now.

What’s not trending any more? Quinoa, kale salads, fresh beans and peas as well as gluten-free cuisine and flower essence in cocktails.

Savor some of these trends and more at a restaurant near you. Chefs work hard all year long to create culinary masterpieces and taste bud-tempting dishes you’ll enjoy for quick weekday lunches, leisurely weekend dinners and every occasion in between.

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