Industry Trends

How to Stay on Top of Food Trends

By Katie McCann

Maki wrapped in gold leaf

Some trends are great – crimped hair, denim on denim , and fanny packs.

Some trends – denim thigh-high boots or platform Crocs – need to go and never return. 

From sushi burritos to the cronut, the restaurant world isn’t immune to its own industry trends, and many businesses have seen huge success by capitalizing on these food trends. 

But it’s tricky. If you were to jump on every hot item that makes it big, your menu would change daily, and it’s unlikely that every food trend fits with your concept.

So how do you decide which trends to jump on? And before then, how do you know what the food trends are?

Break out your hair crimper and get comfy, because we’ll go over all of that for you. 

What’s #Trending?

One day, you’re eating your croissant and donut separately (carb loading season). The next day there’s a lineup around the block for people trying to buy a cronut, and you’re scratching your head, trying to figure out when they got together. 

Okay, maybe it’s not that obvious. But it certainly seems like one second these food trends don’t exist, and the next second you see them everywhere. 

So, how do you spot these trends before they’ve come and gone?

Subscribe to Industry Newsletters

The great thing about the restaurant industry is the amount of resources available to people in it. Whatever you’re trying to learn about, somebody else has asked the same questions. That’s why so many great publications exist that cater (pardon the pun) to the food industry. 

Here are some great places to start:

  • Eater: Eater is a great source for food news and dining guides across the country, giving you some valuable industry insights. Eater also offers great pages specific to some major demographics like Austin, Los Angeles, and New York.
  • Serious Eats: Serious Eats shares a lot of recipes and equipment information, but these are still great indicators of upcoming industry trends. If they keep sharing a recipe or some niche equipment, you can take it as a good hint of an upcoming trend.
  • Food Network: The latest programs and shows are a great way to keep a pulse on what’s popular! Their newsletter can give you some great industry insights.

Stay Active on Social

One thing a lot of these food trends have in common? They photograph beautifully, which means they’ll be all over Instagram as soon as they’re all over menus.

Actively checking social media will give you a peek at what’s up and coming. A great place to start is by following hashtags on Instagram. When you follow hashtags, you receive highlights of the top posts under that tag. You can follow hashtags like #drinktrends (over 1,000 posts), #restauranttrends (over 2,000 posts), or #foodtrends (close to 60,000 posts!) and get a weekly highlight for some valuable insights on what’s gaining popularity.

On top of hashtags, make sure to follow food influencers in your area and major geographies. Both offer some valuable insights for your business on what’s trending: 

  • Local influencers can give you an idea what foodies in your area are starting to engage with and keep you connected to the local market. What trends are resonating in your backyard?
  • Influencers from major cities can show you what trends are picking up in urban areas and give you a headstart on picking up the trend for your neighborhood.

Don’t Discount the Past

The great thing about trends is that they come and go, then come and go again, and again. Maybe you missed a food trend this time, or it didn’t work with your current concept, but keep a note of what trends come in and go out! Chances are, it’ll make a comeback.

Start Your Own Trends

Do you ever have those ideas that you want to try, but talk yourself out of it because it seems too out there? People don’t need a hamburger with a bun made out of mac and cheese…right? 

WRONG! When you do that, you may be talking yourself – and the restaurant industry – out of the next great food trend.

Somebody had to be first to decide that sushi and burritos would be a wonderful pairing or that bagels would, in fact, be better as a rainbow. Feel free to experiment with your menu and with ideas that may seem out there. You could spearhead the next great food trend!

People photographing dishes with their smartphones

Bandwagon for One 

Before you drop everything to pull an all-nighter in the kitchen, take a minute to evaluate if this is the right industry trend to jump on. See if this food trends checks the right boxes.

✔️ Large Scale Implications

Ask yourself, “Is this an industry trend or an item?” This is where some industry trends – like growth in the vegan market  – are more than an item going in and out of style. 

Trends that impact guest behavior and go beyond a quick menu change are likely changes you’ll want to consider carefully, like a shift towards green practices. If they’re a behavior trend, they’re likely not going to shift anytime soon, and if you ignore them, you can risk alienating diners. 

✔️ A Fit for Your Brand

Does it make sense to change your menu? Absolutely. 

Does it make sense to do so for every food trend? Maybe not. Consider your restaurant brand, and ensure any trends you’re trying to take part in make sense. 

If you’re a fine dining restaurant, adding larger-than-life milkshakes likely doesn’t make a lot of sense, no matter how popular they are outside your restaurant. 

✔️ Affordable

It’s the name of the game with food trends: you’re in one day, and out the next. Before you decide to jump on a food trend, make sure you can afford to jump on it. If it were to go out of style tomorrow, or if it was already too saturated a niche, are you still financially okay?

Take 24-karat gold chicken wings, for example. Do you want to break the bank to coat your menu in gold flakes, only for it to go out of style and leave you with a kitchen packed with edible gold?

If you can’t afford to try certain trends, don’t do it! Another one will come along.

Food Trends to Sink Your Teeth Into

When you think “food trends,” what comes to mind? Beyond cronuts and sushi burritos, here are some of the craziest food trends that the industry has seen.

1) Glitter Lattes

Does it get more Instagrammable than a sparkling latte?

2) Galaxy Everything

This out-of-this-world dessert trend was all the rage on social media – hopefully they taste as good as they look!

3) Pasta Pizza… or Pizza Pasta?

Trying to decide between pizza or pasta? Well, you don’t have to with this food trend!

4) 24-Karat Magic

Regular chicken wings? Please. Coating your food in 24-karat gold is all the rage. 

5) Avocado Buns

Trying to get some bread out of your diet? Now you can with avocado buns! 

From out-of-this-world designs to pizza pasta, it’s clear no food trend is off the table.

Food trends will continue to come and go, no matter what you’re doing in your restaurant. If you want to partake, you can. If you don’t, you don’t have to! But it’s important to be aware of what’s coming to determine  if it’s the right call for your business. 

Jumping on the bandwagon doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll strike (chicken wing) gold everytime, but it is a fun way to try out new recipes and flex your creative muscle. 

Photo of Katie McCann
by Katie McCann

Katie is a former Content Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she writes about food and restaurant experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the finer things in life, but no matter how much success she continues to acquire, she stays true to her roots and still considers imitation crab as gourmet. If she isn’t writing, you can find her on a patio with friends and a pitcher of white wine sangria.

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