Top Restaurant Trends for 2018


2018 is the Year of Transparency - Helping the planet and our health

Fads come and go, but year-after-year we continue to see and hear the same theme - people want to know what's IN their food, HOW it was made,  and WHERE it comes from. In fact, this year's What's Hot Culinary Forecast from the National Restaurant Association shows many trends relate to quality, sustainability and food transparency.

As dietitians, we love this! We love that people are more mindful about what they eat and are asking questions about their food! And, that chefs are helping to lead the charge by inspiring us with their amazing creativity.

Helping the planet and our bodies is something we can’t get enough of!

Here are the top Restaurant Trends for 2018 we’re excited about:

  1. Hyper-local (e.g. restaurant gardens, onsite beer brewing, house-made items)

  2. Natural ingredients/clean menus (e.g. more scratch-made less artificial preservatives, flavors and colors)

  3. Food waste reduction (e.g. using “ugly” produce, repurposing vegetables scraps and root-to-stem or nose-to-tail)

  4. Veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine (e.g. fresh produce is star of the dish)

  5. Environmental sustainability (everything from food packaging, to food sourcing)

  6. Locally sourced meat and seafood

  7. Locally sourced produce

  8. Simplicity/back to basics

We especially love these top restaurant food trends that focus on flavor + health:



Healthful Kids Menus

Hello healthy takes on classic kids foods! We see you, butternut squash whole grain mac n’ cheese,  grilled chicken satay skewers, whole grain pizzas and veggie burgers. We love that more and more restaurants are offering kiddos the choice to mix and match entrees, sides and beverages and adding more plant-based options like fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans. Even better when they offer little kid and big kid menus with appropriate portion sizes and leave out the soda!



Vegetable Carb Substitutes

We’ve seen everything from Cauliflower Rice to Zucchini and Carrot Noodles and even Sweet Potato “toast” - we can’t wait to see what inventive ideas come out of the kitchen next!



Ethnic Spices

Restaurants are kicking up the heat with Harissa (a  Tunisian chili-paste staple that adds robust flavor to everything from grilled meats, fish and veggies to soups, stews and couscous) and peri peri, (known as African Birds Eye Chili - used as the base of a unique sauce that starts with lemon, garlic, onion, salt and then customized with a variety of other spices) while Ras al Hanout (a Moroccan spice blend, made with anywhere from 10-100 different spices, is full of antioxidants from nutmeg, cumin, turmeric and ginger) are gaining popularity. The antioxidant power from these ethnic spices can help boost immunity while serving up some seriously tasty dishes.



House-Made/Artisan Pickles

While sodium may be high in pickled foods, fresh pickled veggies that are fermented in brine (and haven’t been boiled) may help with digestion and give a small boost to your immune system because the pickling process supports healthy bacteria.



Ethnic-inspired kids dishes

Move over chicken tenders and buttered noodles and make way for tacos, teriyaki rice bowls and sushi.



Gourmet items in kids’ meals

Bring on the flavor! Letting kids expand their palettes with gourmet items sets them up for healthy habits in the future. The more diverse and adventurous they become - makes it easy to follow the old mantra of “balance, moderation and variety.”



Ethnic condiments

The easiest way to add more flavor to simple ingredients. Sriracha and sambal continue to top the charts in popularity as herbaceous chimichurri and zhoug climb the ranks.



Ancient grains

Quinoa continues to rain the supreme ancient grain on many menus, but farro, millet, amaranth and spelt are gaining traction. Whole grains like these are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein!

Going back to our roots with ancient foods, simple ingredients, and bold flavors paves the way to eating healthfully. Cheers to that!