The National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2020 culinary survey asked more than 600 professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation what they anticipate will be the big trends this year. Given a list of 133 items in 12 categories identified in partnership with Technomic, the professionals were asked to rate how hot they thought each would be on a scale from sizzling hot to steaming, simmering, and just room temperature. The chefs predicted that plant-based proteins, healthy bowl meals, and delivery-friendly menu options in eco-friendly packaging will see increased demand by consumers in restaurants this year.

“These trends reflect Americans’ desire to combine the tried-and-true with the new and different,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association, in a press release. “This mix of comfort and edginess is a microcosm of the world we live in. Consumers want something different, but to keep what satisfies them at the same time. More than 1 million restaurants around the country stand ready to meet those wants and needs.”

According to America’s chefs, the top 10 trends customers will crave in 2020 are as follows:

  1. Eco-friendly packaging. Chefs expect diners will look to restaurateurs to reduce use of packaging that can’t be recycled or composted and use more environmentally responsible alternatives.
  2. Plant-based proteins. Americans are seeking out plant-based meat alternatives that taste great and fit a variety of diets. Full-service, quick-service, and fast-casual restaurants have begun serving plant-based options, and the items continue to make inroads at fine-dining operations, as well.
  3. Delivery-friendly items. Off-premises dining is projected to account for more than 60% of restaurant traffic this year, which explains the growth of takeout, delivery, drive-thru, curbside pickup, and food truck vending options. Restaurants should prepare to satisfy busy diners with easy-to-eat, on-the-go meals that maintain quality in transit.
  4. Healthy bowls. Bowl options for all dayparts may pop up on more menus in 2020. The “build your own” model allows patrons to create customized meals and enables restaurants to highlight seasonal ingredients and limited-time offers.
  5. Scratchmade foods. Guests are looking for more menu items that are handmade—everything from fresh-baked bread and homemade pasta to sauces and gravies made in-house.
  6. Creativity with catering. Consumers are seeking great experiences and food in an imaginative way that reflects their personalities and lifestyles.
  7. Revamped classic cocktails. Classic beverages like Manhattans, margaritas, whiskey sours, and martinis that have a modern twist will be popular among consumers this year. Among nonalcoholic beverages, kombucha, agua frescas, and oat milk were tops.
  8. Foods promoting stress relief. Foods containing ingredients shown to reduce stress or promote relaxation will be top of mind for consumers this year. This includes botanicals like turmeric, or CBD-infused foods.
  9. Specialty burger blends. Whether it’s a beef/pork burger or a mushroom/beef patty, consumers are searching for new flavors and dietary profiles in innovative burger blends.
  10. Unique beef and pork cuts. Consumers will seek out unique cuts on menus, such as pork belly, pork skirt steak, Vegas strip, and oyster steaks.

What’s Hot 2020 Culinary Forecast (pdf)

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