6 Emerging Restaurant Trends for 2014

Technomic, a Chicago-based foodservice research and consulting firm, has identified six major trends that are emerging for the second half of 2014.

The Next Sriracha: Thailand’s chile-and-vinegar condiment became the new chipotle. Now, customers are seeking newer and even bolder taste sensations imparted by peppers and sauces from Asia, Latin America and North Africa: habanero, serrano, harissa, shishito, togarashi, sweet chili, ghost pepper and spicy mayos and aïolis. I especially love Peri Peri from Africa (which I recently enjoyed in Portugal) and Harissa, a spicy pepper paste.

5638832862_a07c46e84c_zBarbecue Love: Authentic regional interpretations of slow-cooked barbecue continue to have broad appeal, but the latest trend is the application of barbecue sauces and flavors to handheld offerings like sandwiches and pizza, often with barbecue pulled pork as the core protein. Even conventional barbecue chains have rolled out nontraditional barbecue-inspired handhelds, such as the BBQ Chicken Lettuce Wrap LTO at Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que. Here’s a BBQ-style hot dog called Hot Chick from Vicious Dogs in LA.


Name That Snack: Classic snacks are being incorporated into novelty foods that capture attention with over-the-top indulgence, like Subway’s Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt, Crumbs Bake Shop’s Girl Scout Cookie cupcakes or Dunkin’ Donuts’ iced coffee flavors inspired by Baskin-Robbins ice creams. [Although Crumbs just announced they’re closing — so is the cupcake era over?]



Asian-style Small Plates: Asian-influenced bites include Lazy Dog Café’s Dim Sum Dumplings and the Chicken Sriracha Bites served with ranch dressing at bd’s Mongolian Grill, but even fine-dining restaurants are incorporating dim sum-style service.

5384579281_63d5e2865f_bBeverages Bubbling Up: Specialty teas; lemonade-and-iced-tea blends; restaurant originals such as housemade sodas; smoothies beyond fruit, featuring surprising ingredients ranging from kale to peanut butter—all are seeing increases in menu incidence. Fast casuals lead the way: Pret A Manger added Beet Beautiful Juice with apple, carrot, beet and ginger; Grand Traverse Pie Company unveiled a Pie Smoothie; and Panda Express is testing an in-store tea bar. When it comes to adult beverage trends, hops rule; IPAs and other hoppy craft beers are proliferating in many incarnations.


Shrinking Menus: Across all mealparts, casual-dining chains are reducing menus. Operations can slow down when menus get too big; a less-is-more approach can create a more user-friendly customer experience. Will the success of narrowly focused fast casuals lead to more menu and operational simplification in full service?

Images: Courtesy of restaurants, Harissa by Brooke, Vicious Hot Chicks by Doran, Dim Sum at Guang Zhou restaurant in New York by Meng He



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