One of the fun things about one year ending, and another starting, is predicting how the next 12 months are going to go. So I thought I’d write up a “food trends for 2016″ blog post because nobody ever does this.
OK, everybody does this, and I just don’t want to be left out. So here are some of the food trends that I think will be on the nation’s menu in 2016.
The end of tipping. It isn’t that tipping at restaurants will become obsolete in 2016, but David Corsun, director of the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver’s Daniel’s School of Business, makes a good argument that tipping is going to become less and less popular throughout the year.
“In 2015, we saw the beginning of the end of tipping with Danny Meyer’s move in this direction,” says Corsun, and when referencing Danny Meyer, he is referring to the CEO of the New York City-based Union Square Hospitality Group, which employs about 1,800 people and owns a number of prominent restaurants.
“We’ll see this become a true trend in 2016,” Corsun predicts. “Higher minimum wages, the cost of healthcare, and threats to the tip credit will all be influential. The challenge will be for restaurants to maintain service standards as servers are no longer working on commission, or tips.”
Salumi. Mark Estee is the owner of Campo, a trendy Italian restaurant in Reno, Nevada (it was named one of Esquire’s top new restaurants in 2012), and he thinks salumi will get its due in 2016. It’s a super spicy, spreadable mix of meats, mostly pork.
Estee may be onto something there. Corsun says that the “nose to tail” movement in restaurants will influence buying for at home preparation.
“People are going to buy cuts of beef and pork they wouldn’t have considered cooking at home a couple of years ago. This trend will be driven by cost considerations and concerns about sustainability,” he says.
I have no idea if salumi will really catch on in 2016, but it’s fun to say, and if it does, I can remind everyone about this blog post and look like a genius. If it doesn’t catch on, hopefully nobody will remember I wrote this.
Food safety. Corsun thinks this will be a big issue in 2016. “Consumers will be concerned… as will restaurants and municipalities,” he says. “No other restaurant groups want to experience what Chipotle has been going through.”
Even if some restaurant owner out there is off his or her rocker and wants to have an E.Coli scare, they’ll have a tougher time having one, hopefully. Last November, the Food and Drug Administration released the Food Safety Modernization Act’s final rule on produce safety. The rule establishes some long overdue science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption, according to the FDA website.
So whether you notice it or not, the produce industry will be improving its food safety methods.
Bacon will continue to rule. Phew, good news; although your local cardiologist might not be as relieved. Every year, Schweid & Sons, a family-owned and fourth generation ground beef processor based out of Carlstadt, New Jersey, comes out with its Burger Trends Report. In 2016, no surprise, really — bacon isn’t going anywhere, says the report and Jamie Schweid, executive vice-president of Schweid & Sons.
“Bacon will continue to thrive as the most-used protein to top burgers, but we anticipate we will see a shift to trying a variety of smoked bacons instead,” Schweid says. He adds that bacon jams are also on the rise as toppings.
Bacon on your bison burger. Estee thinks bison meat may become a more popular dish in 2016.
“No more bland turkey burgers,” he predicts. “It’s all about the bison, from burgers to stews.”
One point in the bison’s favor. Bison meat is known to be lower fat than a burger and even a turkey burger. Bison are also free range animals and tend to be grass fed.
But will they really take off? Maybe if gas prices continue to drop. Bison meat is twice the price as beef.
Artisan soft drinks. If you’ve always someone who likes soda pop but have been jealous of beer drinks who get to drink unique craft beers and tour microbreweries, while you drink a Coke or Pepsi for the millionth time in your life, well, maybe you’ll have your day in the sun before too long. Last September, the National Restaurant Association conducted an online survey of 1,575 members of the American Culinary Federation, and its members listed artisan sodas as the nation’s current number one non-alcoholic beverage trend.
And, indeed, some “bars” have actually opened up that sell artisan soft drinks, like Rambling House Soda Popin Columbus, Ohio, which opened up in early 2014. They do serve beer but specialize in homemade soft drinks — and, like many bars, also offer live entertainment. In other words, some establishments are trying to make soda pop as cool as beer.
Cold brew coffee. Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of The Gourmet Retailer, which recently declared that “cold-brew coffees are the hot new thing.”
You can drink a cold-brew coffee hot; it’s just that the brewing process doesn’t require heat, according to GourmetRetailer.com. Or as a food biologist told an ABC affiliate, “It’s where you grind the grounds, and you actually steep it in room temperature water for 15 to 24 hours and then you drain off the grains and you have a concentrated brew.”
The flavor is said to be bolder and sweeter, and the caffeine content is double a regular cup of coffee and many energy drinks.
Even if it doesn’t sound like it’s for you, cold brew coffee may soon be hard to ignore. In 2015, cold-brew coffee sales reached $7.9 million, a 115 increase from the year before.
Healthier menu options. OK, this doesn’t sound like a very edgy prediction, and it isn’t. Every year, restaurants and supermarkets are highlighting healthy food items. Predicting we’ll see healthier food items is like suggesting it might rain in 2016. But on December 1, 2016, new regulations pushed by the FDA will be enforced at restaurants and food establishments around the nation, that have 20 or more locations operating under the same name and serving basically the same menu items. (Smaller restaurants may comply voluntarily.) Calories will have to be posted for standard menu items and, if guests ask for it, offer additional nutrition information upon request.
Sure, a lot of places are doing this already, but if you’re a restaurant that really lays it on thick with the fat-laden sauces and burgers, you’d think that you might want to balance some of that with healthier options, so your business doesn’t have a reputation for being one of the least nutritionally appealing establishments in the country. You would think. So don’t be surprised if some restaurants that never appeared to care about nutrition start pushing healthier fare. Still, I doubt we’ll see Brussels sprout-flavored burgers become the “it food” of 2016.