photo courtesy NvRA


As we begin the New Year, everyone is buzzing about what this year’s culinary trends are going to be. This new list has been revealed by The National Restaurant Association. They surveyed nearly 700 professional chefs—members of the American Culinary Federation—on which food, cuisine, beverages and culinary themes will be hot trends on restaurant menus in the year ahead. The results show that new cuts of meat and hyper-local in-house-made items continue to see strong customer demand.

At the end of 2017 these chefs were asked to rate 161 items as a hot trend for 2018 and what trends were cooling down. According to the survey, menu trends that will be heating up in 2018 include doughnuts with non-traditional filling, ethnic-inspired kids’ dishes, farm/estate-branded items and heritage-breed meats. Trends that are cooling down include artisan cheeses, heirloom fruits and vegetables and house-made charcuterie.

The annual “What’s Hot” list gives a peek into culinary concepts for this year, which includes the Top Food Trends and Top Concept Trends. Consumers will look for more healthful, sustainable and simple choices at restaurants, say the chefs surveyed for our list of Top 10 concept trends in 2018. We will see a shift towards more of a “hyper-local (e.g. restaurant gardens, onsite beer brewing, house-made items)” lifestyle, which landed in the number one spot. Chef-driven fast casual concepts (think fast, convenient and affordable from culinary masters), natural ingredients/clean menus, food waste reduction and veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine (e.g. fresh produce is star of the dish) are in the top 5 concepts we will see in restaurants this year. In line with the “hyper-local” trend, locally-sourced meat and seafood, locally sourced produce and environmental sustainability are part of the top ten trends.

Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research of the National Restaurant Association, feels that “Local, vegetable-forward, and ethnic-inspired menu items will reign supreme on menus in the upcoming year. Guests are implementing these trends in their own lifestyles and want to see them reflected in the food they eat at restaurants. In response, chefs are creating more items in-house and turning to global flavors to infuse their menus.”

The number one food trend of 2018 are new cuts of meat (e.g. shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak, Merlot cut), with 69 percent of chefs designating it a “hot trend.” Other trends to keep an eye out for are house-made condiments, street food-inspired dishes (e.g. tempura, kabobs, dumplings, pupusas), international-inspired breakfast items (e.g. chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes), sustainable seafood, healthful kids’ meals, vegetable carb substitutes (e.g. cauliflower rice, zucchini spaghetti), uncommon herbs (e.g. chervil, lovage, lemon balm, papalo), authentic world cuisine and international spices (e.g. harissa, curry, peri peri, ras el hanout, shichimi). 

Top 20 Food Trends

1. new cuts of meat 

2. house-made condiments 

3. street food-inspired dishes 

4. ethnic-inspired breakfast items 

5. sustainable seafood 

6. healthful kids’ meals 

7. vegetable carb substitutes 

8. uncommon herbs 

9. authentic ethnic cuisine

10. ethnic spices 

11. Peruvian cuisine 

12. house made/artisan pickles 

13. heritage breed meats 

14. Thai-rolled ice cream 

15. African flavors 

16. ethnic-inspired kids’ dishes 

17. doughnuts with nontraditional filling

18. gourmet items in kids’ meals 

19. ethnic condiments 

20. ancient grains