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Menu trends: Keeping Your Offerings Fresh and Appealing

14 Mar 2024

Welcome to our complete guide on menu trends! Whether you're a seasoned chef or a home cook looking to spice things up, we've got you covered. We'll give you the lowdown on the latest culinary innovations, exploring new flavours, ingredients, cooking techniques, and presentation styles to keep your menu ahead of the curve. With our insights and inspiration, you'll be well-equipped to keep your menu exciting and irresistible. So, let's get cooking and discover the hot culinary forecast we have for you.

What’s on the menu for 2024?

Here are the top trends you’ll likely be seeing everywhere this year. 

Vegetables to become the star of the show

Vegetables are undergoing a remarkable transformation, shifting from supporting roles to headlining acts. This evolution is being driven by a growing demographic of diners who identify as vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian, seeking out sumptuous, plant-based alternatives that cater to their dietary preferences.

Despite lingering perceptions among many restaurants that vegetables play a secondary role in culinary creations, recent research highlights the untapped potential of these ingredients. With a lower carbon footprint and a higher concentration of nutrients, plant-centric dishes present a dual advantage: they are not only economically viable and sustainable but also possess the ability to captivate diners with their unexpected appearances, particularly on dessert menus.

But don't just take our word for it. A staggering 58% of operators foresee the ongoing growth of the plant-based movement.

The new face of comfort foods

Comfort food has always been a go-to for many of us, offering a taste of home and a sense of reassurance. But now, there's a twist – we're craving that familiar cosiness with a fresh, modern spin.

Diners are wanting their classics but with a twist. It's about taking those cherished dishes we grew up with and giving them a makeover – new ingredients, new techniques, and a whole new look.

So, why all the fuss? Unilever found that 65% of operators think this trend is just getting started. That means we'll see more of these revamped classics on menus, offering us the warmth of home with a modern, flavorful twist.

Adapting sourcing strategies in the face of climate change

If you're an executive chef, it's likely that you're stepping up your game when it comes to sourcing ingredients, driven by the urgent need to protect our food sources in the face of climate change. One fascinating avenue of exploration? Algae. Yep, you read that right. 

Chefs are looking into the culinary potential of algae as a sustainable solution from both ocean and land.But that's just the beginning. There's a growing movement among environmentally conscious restaurants to source from farmers and ranchers committed to enhancing soil health and ecosystems. They're calling it "regenerative agriculture".

And it's not just about what's in the soil – it's also what's in our frying pans. Many chefs are seeking out seed-free oils as part of this sustainability trend. Enter cultured oil, crafted from fermented sugar cane. This innovative alternative to traditional oils like canola and corn is not only more eco-friendly but also healthier. It's making waves in the culinary world, finding its way into everything from French fries to fried chicken, signalling a shift towards more sustainable frying practices.

Embracing flavour contrast

Imagine this: a plate of crispy chicken wings, glazed with a tantalising blend of honey and chilli, offering the perfect balance of sweet heat. This is just one example of the artful fusion of contrasting flavours that are making waves in menu innovation.

In today's culinary landscape, the clash of flavours and the fusion of culinary traditions are all the rage, both on their plates and behind the kitchen doors. So, why the sudden surge in flavour contrasts? Well, for many, dining out became a symbol of returning to normalcy post-Covid lockdowns. After months of repetitive home cooking, people craved bold taste combinations, exciting textures, and eye-catching presentations. Even though lockdowns are mostly behind us in 2023, this appetite for culinary adventure hasn't waned.

Whether it's the marriage of sweet and spicy or the juxtaposition of global flavours, diners are seeking out experiences that surprise and delight with every bite. We'll see a lot of menu development in restaurants to cater to this.

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The influence of influencers on menu development

In today's digital age, the impact of social media on culinary trends cannot be overstated. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram have become breeding grounds for viral food trends, shaping menus and driving innovation in the restaurant industry.

Take, for example, the phenomenon sparked by the "Barbie" movie, which led to a wave of pink-themed drinks flooding social media feeds over the summer. Similarly, spontaneous events like the "girl dinner" captured headlines and inspired a wave of culinary experimentation with small plates and charcuterie boards.

According to Datassential, a staggering 72% of consumers express curiosity in trying new foods and flavours they discover online, eager to explore what the hype is all about. Additionally, 67% of consumers crave more fads and short-term trends in restaurant and retail settings, indicating a growing appetite for culinary novelty. As chefs and operators increasingly turn to platforms like TikTok and Instagram for inspiration, we can expect new trends to gain even more momentum in 2024.

Bringing people together through food

In the ever-evolving world of dining, a new trend is taking centre stage: the art of sharing. From sizzling Korean BBQs to indulgent Swiss fondue, from vibrant mezze from Greece or the Middle East to flavorful Spanish tapas, this trend transcends fine dining, focusing instead on the joy of communal feasting that unites people both physically and spiritually.

But why has this trend captured the culinary spotlight? Recently, there's been a renewed appreciation for the simple pleasure of sharing a meal with loved ones. Diners crave the camaraderie and connection that come with gathering around a table, enjoying delectable small plates in a laid-back, convivial atmosphere.

For chefs, this presents a golden opportunity to craft dishes that evoke celebration and togetherness. It can be a chance to showcase regional flavours and techniques, inviting diners to jump on a culinary journey that enhances their dining experience and fosters meaningful connections with their loved ones.

As the culinary world continues to evolve, the essence of sharing food remains a powerful force, bringing people together in moments of joy, celebration, and connection that transcend cultural boundaries and culinary traditions.

Next-gen culinary creations

The phenomenon of sharing food boards has taken social media by storm, captivating audiences on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. But now, chefs are stepping up to the plate, ushering in a new era of culinary innovation and creativity.

Instead of sticking to the traditional cheese and charcuterie boards, chefs are venturing into uncharted territory, exploring the realm of lesser-known Italian salumi or deli meats. Mortadella, often dubbed as a fancier version of bologna, has emerged as a rising star, garnering attention in several culinary reports.

But the evolution doesn't stop there. Say hello to seacuterie – the seafood-centric cousin of charcuterie. This innovative twist on appetisers offers a more budget-friendly alternative to the high-end seafood towers of yesteryear. Seacuterie boards boast an array of smoked, pickled, cooked, and raw fish and shellfish, artfully arranged and accompanied by house-made sauces and condiments. According to predictions by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, tinned fish like sardines and anchovies will become prominent fixtures in these assortments, adding depth and variety to the culinary experience.

The rise of low-waste menus

In a world where food waste has become a pressing concern for governments, NGOs, and consumers alike, the culinary industry is stepping up to address this issue head-on. With a staggering 30% of food produced for human consumption going uneaten, reducing waste has become a top priority not only for environmental reasons but also as a critical business concern for commercial kitchens.

So, why the sudden emphasis on low-waste menus? Simply put, it's a win-win situation. By thinking about ways to reduce food waste, chefs have the opportunity to maximise the use of ingredients and resources, extending the reach of each component and providing diners with yet another reason to feel good about dining out. So it actually works to help chefs attract more consumers.

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How can a hospitality POS help with menu development

In the fast-paced world of hospitality, menu development is a continuous process aimed at enticing guests, optimising profitability, and staying ahead of culinary trends. A robust Point of Sale (POS) system can be a valuable tool in this endeavour, offering several key features to streamline and enhance the menu development process.

  • Sales analysis and reporting: A restaurant POS provides detailed sales analysis and reporting capabilities, allowing restaurant owners and chefs to identify top-selling items, monitor trends, and understand customer preferences. By analysing sales data, establishments can make informed decisions about menu items, pricing strategies, and promotional offers.
  • Inventory management: Effective menu development relies on efficient inventory management. A POS system with integrated inventory tracking allows businesses to monitor ingredient usage, track stock levels in real time, and identify cost-effective purchasing opportunities. By gaining insight into ingredient usage and costs, chefs can make informed decisions about menu offerings, ensuring optimal profitability and minimising waste.
  • Menu engineering: A hospitality POS enables menu engineering by providing insights into item profitability, popularity, and contribution margins. Chefs and restaurant owners can use this information to strategically design menus, highlight high-margin items, promote best-sellers, and optimise menu layout for maximum impact. Additionally, POS systems often offer menu customisation features, allowing businesses to easily update menus with seasonal specials or new offerings.
  • Customer feedback and engagement: Many modern POS systems include features for collecting customer feedback and facilitating engagement. Through integrated customer feedback tools, businesses can gather valuable insights into guest preferences, satisfaction levels, and dining experiences. This feedback can inform menu development decisions, helping chefs tailor offerings to meet customer expectations and preferences.
  • Kitchen Display Systems: Integrated with the POS, kitchen display systems (KDS) allow chefs to view orders in real-time as they are placed, eliminating the need for paper tickets and streamlining kitchen operations. With customisable display options and automated routing of orders to different preparation stations, KDS ensures that each dish is prepared promptly and accurately, enhancing the guest dining experience.

Blending innovation and flavour for a delicious future

And there you have it, guys! We've journeyed through the tantalising landscape of culinary trends, exploring new flavours, techniques, and dining experiences that are shaping the menus of tomorrow. From the rise of plant-based delights to the reinvention of comfort classics, from sustainable sourcing strategies to the artful fusion of contrasting flavours, we've witnessed the dynamic evolution of the culinary world.

But amidst all the excitement, one thing remains clear: the key to culinary success lies in embracing innovation while staying true to the essence of great food. Whether you're a seasoned chef or a home cook looking to spice things up, there's always room at the table for creativity, experimentation, and a dash of daring.

So, let's raise our glasses to the future of food—a future filled with endless possibilities, where every dish is a work of art and every meal is a celebration. With our newfound knowledge and inspiration, let's venture forth into the kitchen and cook up a storm. After all, the recipe for success is simple: blend innovation with flavour, sprinkle in a pinch of passion, and savour the delicious journey that lies ahead. Bon appétit!

If you liked this blog then check out our additional hospitality resources including our factors that will affect your menu pricing strategies guide.

Ready to elevate your restaurant operations? Talk to our team about modern POS systems today for seamless management!

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