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Photo: Mikel Taboada/Shutterstock.com. 

To refresh its seventh annual Culinary & Cocktail Trend Forecast for 2021, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants this week released a look back at how the pandemic has impacted food and beverage trends of 2020 and shared predictions for how evolving consumer behavior will shape next year’s trends.

In 2021, Kimpton said, consumers can expect a new wave of trends, from the rise of garden goods to a resurgence of health foods, as this pandemic continues to shift the way diners eat, cook, and imbibe.

“We know that diners’ needs have changed – the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the foodie or at-home chef in many of us. While diners first leaned into comfort and nostalgia, heading into the new year we’re seeing a return to health and wellness-inspired culinary and cocktail creations,” said Scott Gingerich, Kimpton’s Senior Vice President of Restaurants & Bars.

“This forecast touches on some of the biggest takeaways from 2020, which trends are already starting to fade and how evolving preferences are driving dining and drinking for 2021.”

To uncover takeaways from 2020 for this year’s trend report, data analysts reviewed in-restaurant, takeout and room service orders from more than 75 Kimpton restaurants and bars and combined those insights with predictions and analysis

2020 Takeaways
Treat yourself, restaurant edition: While consumers cooked more than ever before this year, they missed more elevated or complex meals. This led to a surge in restaurant orders of dishes guests couldn’t execute as easily at home – including prime rib, roast duck, freshly shucked oysters and paella.

“Home-cooked” takeout: Kimpton saw a rise in demand for do-it-yourself restaurant-quality food that can be easily prepared or heated up with simple instructions at home. Consumers ordered ready-to-heat soups, taco kits and sandwiches and to-go cocktails where they simply combine the ingredients, add ice and garnish.

Rise in nostalgic comfort food: The most popular room service orders included burgers, pizza, grilled cheese and pasta. The data showed that salads saw one of the sharpest declines in food items purchased from March to September across all restaurants.

2021 Predictions
Comfort food will fade out and health food will reign supreme, again: Over the last several weeks, Kimpton has already seen a shift away from comfort food towards healthy dishes with fresher ingredients and even more vegan and vegetarian options. Expect healthy, hearty bowls using grains like bulgur or farro, with roasted vegetables and mushrooms and punchy, herbal dressings. Freeze dried fruits and veggies will also see a surge in popularity. Lastly, expect carob to make a comeback – the plant-based, low sugar, antioxidant-rich ingredient is fantastic as a natural sweetener.

Garden pesto will be the new banana bread: Home gardens are all the rage, with people adding fresh herbs, citrus, chilies and veggies to all their dishes. The next iteration of this is homemade oat milk, pesto, jam and pickled everything. Burgeoning home chefs are dehydrating, canning, fermenting and pickling more than ever before. People are also starting to grow and eat some cacti species, adding unique flavors and health benefits to an array of dishes. Grilled cactus can be part of a flavorful fajita dish or elevate a tossed salad with unexpected texture in each bite.

Local is the new sustainable: There is a growing sense of community and support for local businesses and suppliers, and the desire to band together and help local communities push through these difficult times. People will also prefer locally sourced foods that represent the area of the restaurant.

Mocktails and cleaner cocktails: Consumers will be looking for fresher, “healthier” cocktails in 2021. Expect to see a demand for dual-purpose mocktails and cocktails with lower alcohol by volume with ingredients like honey, ginger, green tea, lemon, vegetables and herbs. Hard kombucha, spiked seltzers and CBD in drinks, boozy coffee, natural wines and lower-calorie wines also are here to stay.

Bring on the elaborate cocktails: Because it’s all about balance, consumers still will treat themselves when they want to indulge. Fewer drinking occasions means imbibers will be more likely to try a memorable concoction. Many will prefer cocktails with premium spirits that incorporate more unusual or uncommon ingredients.

Source: Trends and Takeaways for 2021 from Kimpton’s Food and Beverage Report