Culinary trends may come and go, but when a new concept captivates diners, it holds the power to shake up an entire industry. Such is the case for some of the most notable trends expected to hit restaurants in 2020. From CBD-infused cuisine to plant-based meats, a variety of exciting opportunities promise to improve several elements of the modern dining experience, while still delivering the exquisite flavors, convenience, and sense of community that diners expect.
Keep an eye out for the 2020 culinary trends highlighted below. They’re projected to expand palates and deliver sustainability to every segment of the culinary industry.
CBD consumption skyrocketed in cuisine and shows no sign of slowing down in the new year. From lotions to snacks and even pet food, this popular substance can be found in a startling variety of products. Projections from Nielsen suggest that sales will reach $6 billion in the United States by 2025. These record sales will be fueled, in part, by CBD’s expansion into a variety of new markets—including high-end cuisine.
Already, CBD is a hit in coffee shops, bakeries, and even elite restaurants. Michael Sabitoni, department chair of food and beverage management in Johnson & Wales College of Hospitality, also notes that CBD-infused water and beverages are on the rise. It’s true: From donuts to salads, CBD can be creatively incorporated into almost any menu item imaginable. While it remains most prominent in baked goods, it’s also making its mark at prominent pizzerias and supper clubs.
Further use of CBD is likely as state legislatures clarify its legality when incorporated in foods and beverages. Currently, this differs significantly from one location to the next, so chefs are advised to proceed with caution.
In 2019, Impossible Foods challenged everything culinary enthusiasts thought they knew about plant-based products. While the Impossible Burger was released several years ago, its 2.0 edition made an impression with its expanded flavor and improved nutritional profile. From Burger King to high-end vegetarian restaurants, Impossible products can now be found in almost any culinary niche imaginable. CEO Pat Brown promises the eventual release of new cuts, including steak. Sabitoni said look for growing notations on menus that highlight vegan, gluten-free, and healthy options.
Impossible’s success has opened the door to increased competition—and not just from Beyond Meat, which has long been one of Impossible’s greatest rivals. Food industry heavyweights such as Kellogg, Hormel, and Nestle are also eager to enter the growing plant-based market. Their products could make waves in both grocery stores and top restaurants.
While the expanding array of plant-based products encourage eco-minded individuals to ditch their usual meat consumption, carnivorous impulses won’t go away just yet. That being said, many restaurant visitors are eager to indulge in the most sustainable meals possible while exploring new flavors. Hence, the increased emphasis on seafood selections that go beyond the usual shrimp and salmon.
The latest seafood trends are often far more flavorful than the mild, chicken-like options American diners previously preferred. Get ready to see once rare options such as sea robin, scup, and butterfish included on seafood menus throughout the nation.
The local movement is far from new, but its focus grows increasingly narrow with time. In 2020, regional cuisine will take on an even more focused approach: Trends from targeted areas will be highlighted rather than absorbed into broader themes. For example, Southern cuisine will be divided into specific categories such as Appalachian and Creole, while Mexican will expand beyond Americanized concepts of tacos and burritos to include specialties from Oaxaca and Veracruz.
Collagen hot pot has been a big deal in Japan for years, but now, similarly spiked options are catching on in the United States. Many smoothie bars now incorporate collagen in top beverages in hopes of appealing to those as concerned with personal appearance as they are with flavors. Soon, beauty gurus will flock to their favorite coffee shops and bars to score collagen-infused lattes and cocktails.
Forget all-you-can-eat buffets and huge portion sizes. In 2020, restaurants are going small. The goal: to do more with less while ensuring that every bite explodes with flavor. This trend goes beyond the cultural tradition of tapas to include many foods once thought of as beyond the reach of the small plate concept. Steakhouses, for example, allow visitors to try multiple cuts of meat and sides, which are far less intimidating for those with small appetites. Other benefits include ease of visual ornamentation and reduced food waste.
Several restaurants have found that small plates significantly enhance profits by providing visitors with snacking opportunities as they await traditional menu offerings on busy evenings—particularly when restaurants purposefully incorporate these items into bar menus or offer them in creatively-designed waiting areas. This is a boon for locations that were previously forced to turn away dozens of eager customers.
Interactive dining has exploded in recent years, with culinary enthusiasts demonstrating a clear fascination with open kitchens and chef’s tables. Now, this trend meets tradition in the form of the open hearth. The versatility of this approach cannot be denied. Each type of wood delivers a slightly different flavor, with many chefs demonstrating a clear preference for certain varieties. Further customization can be obtained based on flame movement.
The increased popularity of open-hearth cooking has fueled a greater demand for properly grown wood and customized grilling equipment. These and other elements help chefs ensure the consistency that, in the past, was sometimes lacking in open-hearth meals. Improved equipment also elevates the already visual experience of meal preparation, thereby delivering another element of entertainment to keep today’s open kitchen fans happy.
In addition to the trends listed above, Sabitoni notes that the food-delivery trend seen in previous years is here to stay. “All restaurant sectors are offering food on the go,” he said.
There’s a lot to love about the latest culinary trends, which deliver impressive versatility while also allowing us to dine in a more sustainable manner. If anticipated 2020 culinary trends are any indication, the industry is moving in an exciting and decidedly positive direction.
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