National Restaurant Association predicts top culinary trends for 2013

December 4, 2012

Every year, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) prepares its “What’s Hot” culinary forecast of menu trends for the coming year. The NRA surveyed more than 1,800 professional chefs—members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF)—to find that children’s nutrition and local sourcing will continue to be the hottest trends on restaurant menus in 2013. This year, the NRA also surveyed nearly 200 professional bartenders—members of the United States Bartenders’ Guild (USBG)—revealing that onsite barrel-aged drinks, food-liquor pairings, and culinary cocktails will be the hottest trends on restaurant drink menus in 2013.

Top 10 menu trends for 2013:

  1. Locally-sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally-grown produce
  3. Healthful kids’ meals
  4. Environmental sustainability as a culinary theme
  5. Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
  6. New cuts of meat (e.g., Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major)
  7. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g., restaurant gardens)
  8. Gluten-free cuisine
  9. Sustainable seafood
  10. Whole grain items in kids' meals

“It is encouraging to see that children’s nutrition remains a top priority for chefs and that they continue to put their creativity in healthful kids meals to work on restaurant menus,” said Joy Dubost, Director of Nutrition & Healthy Living for the NRA. “We have seen an increasing interest in health and nutrition among consumers over the last several years, and that interest is also extended to children’s menus, which has helped make our Kids LiveWell program so successful.”

Top 10 drink menu trends for 2013:

  1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
  2. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings
  3. Culinary cocktails (e.g., savory, fresh ingredients)
  4. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
  5. Locally-produced spirits
  6. Locally-sourced fruit/berries/produce
  7. Beer sommeliers/Cicerones
  8. Regional signature cocktails
  9. Beer-based cocktails
  10. Locally-produced beer

“Increasing recognition of mixology has elevated restaurant drink menus to a new level that allows bartenders to showcase their skills in blending textures and flavors similarly to how chefs approach food in the kitchen,” said Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research and Knowledge for the NRA.

Also included in the surveys were questions about other restaurant and bar trends. More than half (55%) of the chefs surveyed said they always make efforts to adjust dishes and recipes to be more healthful, while 37% said they cook with nutrition in mind, but that not all recipes are easily adjusted. When asked how to best handle the increasing cost of ingredients, 32% of the chefs said changing menus, 25% said adjusting plate composition, and 24% said exploring new sourcing options. Only 4% said that raising menu prices is the best strategy.

Press release