In post-pandemic 2023, consumers will be craving in-person experiences that allow them to socialize, celebrate and take part in new experiences, according to the 2023 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and in partnership with the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and Technomic.
That’s good news for restaurants, which were hit hard by lockdowns and calls to limit in-person interactions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, nearly one-third (29%) of restaurant operators said they don’t expect business conditions will ever return to normal following the pandemic.
The trends forecast, which surveyed more than 500 professional chefs from the ACF and NRA members with chef titles, gives restaurants reason to hope, however. The survey found 70% of respondents said diners are ready to gather on-premises.
That desire to commune with others over a meal is reflected in the top 10 trends identified by NRA’s forecast. In fact, the No. 1 trend, per the report, is “experiences/local culture and community.” The No. 3 trend, “charcuterie boards,” too, highlights an emphasis on shared dining experiences reported by survey respondents.
Despite reawakened interest in dining experiences, rising costs of food and overall inflationary pressure will continue to squeeze potential diners’ budgets in 2023, which means restaurants can expect to see greater emphasis on price by patrons. NRA’s report predicted consumers will be most influenced by price at breakfast, where “value meals” was identified as the top trend affecting the mealtime, and dinner, where less-expensive meat cuts such as chicken thighs, beef chuck and pork shoulder will be trending.
Another trend identified by NRA’s forecast and expected to help restaurants combat the rising costs of food is menu streamlining, which took the spot as the No. 6 top trend. This is an approach the majority of restaurants have tried; 65% of restaurants said they’ve changed menu items as a strategy to mitigate rising costs.
When it comes to flavor, globally inspired flavors will continue to capture the interest of restaurant patrons in 2023. Making the list of top 10 trends is “sriracha variations,” “globally inspired salads” and “Southeast Asian” flavors.
The complete list of top 10 trends identified by NRA:
- Experiences/local culture and community
- Fried chicken sandwiches and chicken sandwiches 3.0 (i.e., spicy and sweet-heat fusion flavors on chicken, etc.)
- Charcuterie boards
- Comfort fare
- Flatbread sandwiches/healthier wraps
- Menu streamlining
- Sriracha variations
- Globally inspired salads
- Zero waste/sustainability/upcycled foods
- Southeast Asian cuisines (Vietnamese, Singaporean, Philippine, etc.)
Rachel Adams joined Informa’s Health & Nutrition Network in 2013. Her career in the natural products industry started with a food and beverage focus before transitioning into her role as managing editor of Natural Products INSIDER, where she covered the dietary supplement industry. Adams left Informa Markets in 2019.