Foodies are a fickle breed—so as restaurant owners know, it’s essential to keep on top of what foods are hot (and what’s not). Based on polls of operators and chefs as well as in-person restaurant visits, industry research and consulting firm Technomic has pinpointed six hot food trends for the rest of 2014. Here’s what you need to know:
- The Next Sriracha: Sriracha has become the new chipotle, but now that Sriracha’s old hat, consumers are venturing into even hotter sauces and flavors featuring tastes from Asia, Latin America and North Africa such as habanero, serrano, harissa, shishito, togarashi, sweet chili, ghost pepper, spicy mayonnaise and aioli.
- Barbecue Love: You don’t have to own a rib joint to get in on diners’ passion for ‘cue. The newest trend? Putting barbecue flavors and sauces on handheld menu items such as pizza and sandwiches and pizza, typically using barbecued, pulled pork as an ingredient. What if you do own a rib joint? Stay one step ahead by getting creative with nontraditional menu items like the BBQ Chicken Lettuce Wrap LTO that Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que offers.
- Name That Snack: Combining childhood flashbacks, comfort foods and big eatin’, restaurants are incorporating snacks like Fritos, Girl Scout Cookies and Twinkies into novelty foods that offer over-the-top indulgence. Think chili or macaroni and cheese topped with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or chocolate-covered Twinkies.
- Asian-style small plates: Consumers’ still-tight budgets, their desire not to overindulge, and their yen for sharing meals with groups of friends are driving the popularity of Asian-influenced small plates. Even fine-dining restaurants are incorporating dim sum-style service.
- Beverages Bubbling Up: Fast casual restaurants are leading the way in adding a wide variety of beverages, such as specialty teas; lemonade-and-iced-tea blends; house-made sodas; and smoothies with out-of-the-ordinary ingredients like kale, beet and ginger. As for alcoholic beverages, the IPA craze is still going strong and other hoppy craft beers are popping up, too.
- Shrinking menus: At the same time they’re offering more beverage options, casual-dining chains are cutting back on menu choices across all dayparts. The goal is to speed service and make the experience more user-friendly with less choice overload. It remains to be seen if this approach to narrowly focused menus will trickle up to full-service restaurants.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.