We welcome you to our 2020 Top 10 Trends issue, our annual collection of 10 trends influencing menus over the coming years.
As we’re compiling this special collection of 10 trends, we take a step back to consider the underlying themes. Doing so gives us a reading on the interplay between the foodservice industry and consumer preferences. Within this set of trends, three macro themes have emerged.
One overarching trend is a maturation of menu evolution. Within this year’s topics, you’ll notice that many of these trends aren’t necessarily introductory concepts. Bowls, honey, global brunch, Eastern Med, non-alc innovations: These themes already have a firm footing in the U.S. menu-development playbook, yet nuanced movements today are keeping them in growth mode.
This also indicates a purpose-driven and thoughtful adaptation of menu trends rather than a rush to market, giving space for chefs and menu developers to pause and refine established trends that lock in consumer loyalty.
Another thread weaving through these trends is a growing emphasis on functionality. This has largely been a consumer-driven movement, primarily seen on retail shelves or in at-home consumption. Now, foodservice operators are starting to tap into that increasingly important driver, recognizing that the mindset of consumer awareness isn’t diminishing as they enter foodservice settings.
It should come as no surprise that flavor remains top of mind here—as a menu-development objective, a creative strategy and the ultimate payoff. Many of these trends are a result of chefs pushing the boundaries with familiar ingredients or concepts, opening up new opportunities with the benefit of an enriched, signature flavor experience.
Smoked or roasted fruits become an anchor for a bowl build. Culinary techniques significantly alter the profile and applications of honey. And fermentation becomes an enormous flavor-building opportunity.
Of course, the ever-present interest in flavor is what drives both menu creativity and consumer intent, propelling menus into 2020 and beyond.