With 2016 over, foodservice operators are now planning for the year ahead, scoping out new trends in ingredients, eating habits, presentations and cuisines. However, it’s not always easy to predict whether trends will be a hit with consumers, or whether they’ll vanish without a trace as the New Year rolls round again.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the trends that made their mark over the course of last year, looking at how they affected what, where, when, and how we ate in 2016.
Bringing the restaurant home
2016 was the year that brought restaurant quality cuisine into the home, with a new set of food delivery apps becoming hugely popular. Third-party services like Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Amazon Restaurants gave consumers the option to order food from their favourite restaurants, without leaving the house.
Although takeaway is by no means a new concept, what really sets the new wave of takeaway apart from traditional offerings is the quality and variety of food offered, with restaurants taking extra care to use products – like our – that stand up to travelling.
The popularity of these new services wasn’t just great news for the wide range of consumers who expect a more personal service from restaurants, but for operators too, who it’s claimed could boost sales by up to 30% by signing up to delivery services.
Plates and boards took a side-line in 2016, as the humble bowl became the de rigueur crockery for up and coming operators. Previous plating trends like slates or wooden boards were largely led by chefs and the foodservice world, before becoming ubiquitous in pubs, hotels, restaurants and homes around the country. Bowls proved a great tool for operators to offer customisation to customers – which as we pointed out in a post earlier last year, was another trend that expanded in 2016., particularly amongst millennial eaters.
Much of the spread of bowls as a trend stems from social media, particularly Instagram, where the “bowl” hashtag has millions of posts. The reason? According to food bloggers and photographers, bowls are simply more photogenic than plates. Savvy restaurateurs picked up on the rise of the bowl, which some have said allow chefs to be more creative with food presentation.
Putting vegetables first
A reversal of roles took place in 2016, with grains and vegetables taking centre stage, and meat being offered as an accompaniment. With more and more consumers adopting a “flexitarian” diet –predominantly vegetarian with small amounts of meat and fish – many operators have placed an emphasis on offering tasty dishes where vegetables are the main focus. Some have taken influence from a “root to stem” approach, a veg based extension of nose to tail eating, and have started to use lesser used vegetables and plant ingredients in new ways. Another key driver of this trend was the increased industry focus placed on - with customers wanting to know where the food on their plates was sourced from, and operators needing to offer produce that was local but cost effective - we highlighted back in April of last year.
One of the rising stars of this trend has been the cauliflower, which this year completed its transformation from an often neglected side dish into a versatile and even “trendy” ingredient. Now, you’re likely to spot cauliflower on menus as a replacement for grains, or roasted whole as the star of the show.
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It’s not just what we’ve eaten (or where we’ve eaten it) that has shifted in 2016, but when. Whereas once a meal out might have been a special, irregular occasion, consumers are now eating out far more regularly. Now, eating out of home is a seen as a social activity for many, with consumers on average eating out at least once a week. For many operators, the evening service is no longer the main pull, with breakfast, lunch and brunch services growing in popularity. This has in part been driven by more operators actually choosing to open throughout the day, with many now serving all day menus, giving consumers to the flexibility to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner regardless of the time of day.
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Turning back the clock
There was a time in recent memory when reading “prawn cocktail”, “steak diane”, or “baked alaska” on a menu would have been taken as a bad sign for many; a hint that a restaurant hadn’t caught up with the times. Not so in 2016, where it seems that the taste for all things retro has finally crossed over into the food world. After years of mistreatment led to a loss of favour, a new wave of chefs is reworking and adapting forgotten classics to suit modern palates. Now, school and dinner party standards like chicken kiev, trifle, and jam roly poly are popping up on menus around the country, often partnered with comforting and ever popular accompaniments like and. Retro foods resurgence could be read as a backlash to food trends in general, as consumers instead look for comforting, unfussy flavours that evoke childhood memories.