The National Restaurant Association Releases List of Hottest Menu Trends for 2014

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The National Restaurant Association recently released the results of the latest survey of restaurant menu offerings, showcasing food, cuisines, beverages and culinary trends that are on the rise and on the wane. The survey is drawn from an online survey of 1283 members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

These professional chefs chose from 258 restaurant dishes and rated each item based on whether it was a “hot trend”, “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorites”. The survey was conducted during the months of October and November this 2013.

From the survey, the following will feature in your favorite restaurants’ menus as the hottest food offerings for the year 2014.

Meats and seafood from local sources
Produce from local sources
Food sourced, produced and packed with environment sustainability in mind
Healthful kids’ meals
Gluten-free cuisine
Produce that are source from the restaurants’ own garden
Children’s nutrition
Pasta and noodles made with non-wheat ingredients (such as quinoa, rice and buckwheat)
Sustainable seafood
Farm/Estate branded items

Food trends were also ranked by category. For appetizers, the menu will feature house-cured meats, vegetarian ingredient, street food-inspired items, appetizers with ethnic dips and bite-size hors d’oeuvre. For main entrees, we should also see more of menus featuring new cuts of meat (such as tri-tip, Denver steak and pork flat iron) as well as non-traditional fish, mainly served in smaller portions. For desserts, hybrid sweets (started by the cronut trend) will still keep their prominence. There will also be savory desserts, house-made desserts, bite-size sweets and deconstructed classics.

Aside from these, more and more restaurants may offer main entrees created for sharing or for grazing, with smaller servings to allow the customers to try more entrees. Uncommon herbs, natural sweeteners and kale salads will also be on the menu spotlight. Also gaining ground would be root-to-stalk or nose-to-tail cooking as well as Southeast Asian cuisine, dark greens and ramen.  The top 5 preparation methods include pickling, fermenting, smoking, sous vide and liquid nitrogen chilling or freezing.

More and more, these trends show that people are becoming conscious about what they eat – looking for locally sourced, environmentally sustainable and healthful food. Thomas Macrina, The American Culinary Federation’s national president says, “Chefs recognize that nutrition is a vital component of the foodservice industry, and constantly revise and update recipes to reflect the concerns and desires of a diverse group of consumers who are looking for good food choices to best meet their nutrition and other needs.”

The five trends gaining the most ground? Nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens and Southeast Asian cuisine. The top tech trend? Tablet computers used as menus. All that and more are available in the full report.

Restaurants will also be utilizing more table and kitchen technology. Customers can choose and order using tablet computers. They can even make use of their own smartphones and tablets and install apps that offer daily restaurant deal, allow you to place orders and choose among mobile or wireless options to pay for the bill. Restaurants will also be looking towards social media as a tool to forge relationships with customers and to offer loyalty programs. In the operations front, tables and smartphones can be used for POS tracking, track orders and check on recipes.

The chefs also identified the following top food items/cooking methods as perennial favorites:

Fried chicken
Italian cuisine
Eggs Benedict
French toast
Fruit desserts
Comfort foods

Meanwhile, these chefs also predicted the following hot food items will be yesterday’s news in 2014:

Bacon-flavored or covered chocolate
Fish offal (utilizing fish liver, head and collars)
Fun-shaped items for the children’s menu
Sliders or mini-burgers
Flowers (blossoms, bulbs and petals0
Molecular gastronomy

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