Operators keen to stay ahead of the game need to anticipate trends before theybecome too mainstream, as well as keep on top of those that have already broken. The Caterer steers you in the right direction
What will your customers be looking to eat in 2018? For operators wanting to stay ahead of the curve, the answer to that question is vital. That's why The Caterer spoke to industry experts from Compass Group UK & Ireland, the Food People and the Gorgeous Group to compile a list of the top 10 food trends we can expect to emerge or, in some cases, continue into next year.
It's an interesting list because it's clear that with every trend comes a counter-trend. On the one hand, we've got a new generation of ‘dude food' on the horizon as barbecuing gets taken to the next level, while at the same time veg-centric cooking continues to come to the fore with health-conscious and environmentally aware consumers opting out of eating meat for at least some of their week's meals.
Multi-cuisine restaurants serving up dishes that take inspiration from all sorts of exciting and international sources are coming to the fore at the same time as nano-specialists that pour all their energy into mastering single ingredients.
But where these food trends share commonalities is in what motivates them. And according to Mark Davies, head of insight at Compass Group UK & Ireland, the key driver is wider consumer behaviour.
The other point that's important to consider is the difference between a trend and a fad, as Charles Banks, director and co-founder of trend trackers the Food People, explains: "A fad is confined to one category, channel or geography and usually just lasts for one season or year.
"A good way to spot trends that will stand the test of time is to identify the ones that have one or more wider social drivers, such as health and wellbeing, or seeking experiences that support them."
"Different barbecue techniques inherited from around the world will become part of restaurant theatre," says Robbie Bargh, the founder of Gorgeous Group. "Consumers will continue to crave the charred and smoky flavours from a barbecue."
It's a view shared by Charles Banks, co-founder and director of the Food People, which has dubbed this movement BBQ 2.0 in its food trends report for 2018. But what's driving it? And how can it continue to evolve?
"More chefs and barbecue operators are starting to think of the barbecue or fire as an incredibly versatile cooking method, rather than an institution confined by history," says Banks. "We expect this momentum to continue with alternatives
to meats, such as fish and game, vegetables, new cuisines and desserts from the barbecue."
Who's doing it: Temper, London W1F
As travel has become more affordable and technology ensures the world becomes better connected, the lines that divide regional fare have blurred.
Chefs and home cooks are growing, buying and cooking with ingredients more typical of exotic cuisines than with their own fare," says Banks. "You can forget about geographical barriers - flavour profiles from across the globe are being used in our kitchens, as consumers become more aware of the unusual flavour imparted by these world ingredients."
Who's doing it: the Providores, London W1U
This is a food movement that is less about fusion and more about choice, according to Banks, with chefs using unfamiliar ingredients in unique ways to provide variety, flavour and texture exploration.
"Quantity and quality are key, as influences and ingredients move from specific regional classics to global favourites, taking their seat at the world table," he says. "Typical cuisines are losing their firm edges and are devolving into one glorious range of flavour options and dish combinations."
Who's doing it: Caravan, London N1C
This is almost the perfect counter-trend to multi-cuisine cooking, focusing as it does on expertise, excellence and the narrative.
"Now is the time to be a specialist in your field," says Banks. "Make your food shine, showing it off to its best possible potential. These specialists are showcasing individual ingredients and creating surprising and delicious dishes with only one main ingredient.
"These nano-specialists are becoming masters of the humble avocado or bag of crisps, as boundaries are pushed and experimentation takes over."
Who's doing it: Yolk, London EC2M
Consumers are more interested in where their food comes from than ever - from the breed to the farm and the farmer's name. But why do they want so much information?
Gorgeous Group's Bargh says: "In a world of consumer distrust, knowing the back story helps to create an element of trust and transparency between the consumer and the retailer, brand and chef, and gives consumers the ability to create a real emotional connection."
Compass's Davies agrees: "People seek honest stories they can trust in an uncertain world. It feels good to know who made your food or drink, where it comes from and how it was cared for."
Who's doing it: Lyles, London E1
Simon Parton, Compass Group UK & Ireland's head of food and beverage innovation, says: "Authenticity is a delicate balance. At the very top level, it means total authenticity of the recipe and the ingredients. This is expensive, so to most of us authenticity means capturing the essence of the cuisine, the flavours, the key ingredients, the colours and smells; not breaking the rules by using the wrong meat, for instance."
Who's doing it: Hill & Szrok, London E8
Meat-free dining has become a lifestyle choice for today's health-conscious and environmentally aware consumers and it's one that they're choosing to dip in and out of.
"Veg-centric cooking is a trend that's been bubbling away for a while," says Nick Vadis, culinary director at Compass Group UK & Ireland. "That's why we've developed our new vegetarian Root Kitchen concept for the business. But the people asking for it are not necessarily vegetarian."
Vadis describes this group as 'flexitarian', while the Food People refers to them as 'reducetarians'.
"This isn't about being perfect, it's about moderation of our carnivorous side," says Banks. "Reducing any processes that harm the planet and finding cleaner ways to live and eat is better for our bodies and better for the world."
Who's doing it: Root, Bristol
Waste not, want not
The arguments for reducing waste are so compelling, for both the planet (less waste to landfill; conservation of natural resources) and hospitality operators (reduced costs), that the real question should be why not?
So it's little wonder that food businesses are becoming increasingly innovative when it comes to lowering the levels of waste they produce.
"Restaurants are promoting themselves as having 'no food waste', using not only nose-to-tail but also root-to-tip [of fruit and vegetable]. Never before has so much of every plant and animal been used," says Banks.
"There are a few operators that are responding to the desire from consumers to live within a sustainable food ecosystem. And it is extremely difficult to do if it is done properly. To quote Doug McMaster from Silo: 'I don't have a bin in my kitchen.' Just think about that for a moment. Nothing is thrown away - no food, no packaging, nothing. That would completely change how a kitchen operates. He admits it's very difficult, but it does mean you get very creative."
Who's doing it: Silo, Brighton
We can kiss goodbye to 'plastic white bread', says the Food People, as the craft of bread baking returns and a trend for artisan, flavoured and luxury loaves emerges.
Of course, craft carbs go well beyond bread, as Banks explains: "Forget about cheap and cheerful, carbs have taken on a luxurious edge, elevating their position from midweek staple to fine dining. Fresh, authentic pasta made with finely milled ancient grains, or bright, vibrant tagliatelle coloured with vegetables."
Who's doing it: Trullo, London N1
Food by occasionâ¦
… rather than food by type because, says Bargh: "Consumers are choosing to eat according to their mood, rather than the nationality of the food."
This means, for example, that diners are looking for dishes that can provide a kick-start to their day, rather than food that is typically associated with breakfast. Banks says this is a trend that is particularly prevalent in the health space, but from an operator's perspective, it's not necessarily an easy appetite to satisfy: "The challenge is getting consumers to understand and articulate what they want at a more functional level."
Who's doing it: Detox Kitchen, London (various locations)
Food on the go
The grab-and-go food trend is expected to evolve in 2018 and it's an opportunity not to be missed by hospitality businesses. The market was valued at £20.1b in 2016, with robust consumer demand for quick and quality food leading to substantial growth and no signs of it slowing down.
"On-the-go is the buzzword driving this trend," says Parton. "We are all busy people - the average lunch in the UK is only 34 minutes - so we insist on eating on the go. Research we conducted found the sandwich has remained the favoured lunchtime choice, chosen by 63% of the UK workforce. We've done a massive amount of work to make sure we're leading the way in delicious and convenient food. 'On the go' must not mean we compromise on quality and enjoyment."
Who's doing it: Pret a Manger/Leon, various locations
The Caterer and Compass
The Caterer has teamed up with Compass Group UK & Ireland to produce exclusive content that offers an in-depth look at the foodservice market today. In a series of regular articles throughout the year, we aim, with the help of Compass and its insight team, to examine the key issues that the sector is facing, as well
as some of the key trends.
Insight: the relationship between consumer behaviour and food trends Change is a constant but there are deep consumer trends that link the thinking and behaviour of millions of people across the UK and Ireland. And those same trends can be seen working across our increasingly small and interconnected world.
These big consumer trends come to life in what, when and where we eat. As such, there is a close synergy between consumer trends and the food trends we are all talking about. For example:
People seek authenticity and transparency in a world where the truth is often hard to find. So it's refreshing to see locally produced food, craft beer, farmers' markets and operators even knowing the farmers' names and addresses.
People are living rich but increasingly busy lives. They employ coping mechanisms, technology to organise themselves, shop online and increasingly are eating healthy, fast, fresh food. Food to go is flying: it's quick, phone friendly and one-handed.
People like to reward themselves with simple pleasures to bring about some joy and even indulgence to counteract a demanding life. The big winners here are the high street coffee shops offering cakes and muffins, while slow-cooked barbecue meat is another indulgent treat.
People love new experiences, immersing themselves in what the world has to offer. This has spurred the growth of long-haul holidays, music festivals, 'retail-tainment' and supper clubs, as well as the use of exotic kitchen ingredients and the growth of authentic international cuisines. The latest are real Mexican tacos - soft not hard - and Caribbean cuisine, which is about much more than jerk chicken.
By Mark Davies, head of insight, Compass Group UK & Ireland
Burger mania The UK burger market might be worth a whopping £3.3b, but with myriad homegrown brands jostling for custom with a plethora of US imports, it's safe to say the sector has reached saturation point.
Clean eating This social media-driven movement has been repeatedly debunked as hokum, leading to today's savvy consumers being more interested in fact-based nutrition.
Extreme hybrids Sophisticated and subtle hybrids that swap formats and borrow flavours - think sweet cake filling inside elegant French pastry, as pÁ¢tisserie meets vienoisserie - are replacing extreme hybrids such as bubble waffles.
Freakshakes These monster milkshake/dessert mash-ups, while incredibly Instagram-worthy, failed to become must-haves.
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