Emerald Coast

Hot Restaurant Menu Trends for 2014

The coming year will be a year of blurred lines in the hospitality industry, with hotel lobbies doubling as living rooms, croissants doubling as doughnuts, and vegetables doubling as dessert ingredients, a hospitality consulting group predicts.
“Blurred Lines” was the theme of the latest annual trend-prediction webinar given by Andrew Freeman, chief executive of San Francisco-based hospitality consulting firm Andrew Freeman & Co.
After a quick rundown of the trends that are winding down, what’s currently trending and what we’re likely to see next year (see some examples below), Freeman outlined other food, beverage and restaurant trends the industry may see in 2014.
• 86 the chicken: Restaurants are taking the risk of removing ever-popular chicken from the menu and offering less conventional proteins, such as catfish, pork belly and goat.
• New-fangled Cobb salads: Moving away from Caesar salads, restaurants are offering updated Cobbs, with personal touches such as fried avocados or jerk chicken.

The gluten-free peanut butter ice cream sandwich at Washington, D.C.’s Firefly

• Haute homey: Upgraded comfort food, such as the modern pierogies at Bluestem Brasserie in San Francisco and peanut butter panna cotta at 1760 in San Francisco, is becoming more popular.
• “Mutant morsels”: Unusual combinations — such as the ramen burger that went viral after being introduced at the Smorgasburg food market in Brooklyn, N.Y., or the dessert pizza with Nutella, marshmallows and macadamia nuts at Scala’s Bistro in San Francisco — are striking chords with customers.
• Ice cream sandwiches: Freeman predicted that we’ll see more of these portable desserts, particularly from food trucks and pop-up restaurants.
• Nontraditional chips: Instead of tortilla chips, potato chips or crostini, Freeman predicted we’ll see more items such as the beef tendon chips at the Hi-Lo BBQ in San Francisco.
• Sea-to-table: “We’re sort of thinking next year is going to see this whole sea-to-table movement,” Freeman said, noting that chefs are experimenting with less common seafood, such as octopus and monkfish liver.

The tea-laced Pera Te cocktail at Chicago’s Mercadito

• Infused ice: Last year, bars and restaurants were making distinctive cubes or shaving their own ice. Now they’re infusing cubes with herbs and other ingredients to enhance flavors, Freeman said.
• Wine by the ounce: “People don’t like commitment,” Freeman said, noting that they also like to try different things, which is why more restaurants are offering wine by the ounce, as well as recommending wine flights.
• Artisanal spirits: Local craft beer is well established, but local spirits are trending, too. “Local spirits are infusing cocktails like I have never seen,” Freeman said.
• “Tippler nibblers”: Expect more food-drink combinations such as potent snow cones and graham cracker squares in root beer floats.
• Local and Iberian wines:  Every state in the union now makes wine, and they’re becoming more popular — and so are wines from Spain and Portugal, Freeman said.
• Tea cocktails: “Tea is going crazy right now,” Freeman said, noting that it’s in food and desserts, but also in cocktails.
• Tableside service: Traditional (the bolito misto cart at Poggio in Sausalito, Calif., and the tableside Caesar salad at Carbone in New York) and not-so-traditional (the Margarita cart at Stampede 66 in Dallas, where the drinks are frozen with liquid nitrogen) tableside presentations appeal to customers and are good for the bottom line, according to Freeman. “The wow presentations mean big bucks,” he said.
• Niche ethnic: Restaurants like Fat Rice in Chicago, which specializes in the cuisine of Macao, and La Urbana in San Francisco, serving the food of Mexico City, are examples of the specificity with which some restaurants are presenting their ethnic cuisine.
• Multipurpose restaurants: Expect more places like Pass and Provisions in Houston, which is a fine dining restaurant on one side and a casual restaurant on the other.
• Live art: Restaurants are using digital images, both still and moving, to keep their art changing, such as the videos of Flamenco dancers at Canela in San Francisco.
• Year of the brasserie: Not necessarily French, but casual, sophisticated and boisterous restaurants such as Lafayette in New York and Cavalier in San Francisco are on the leading edge of this trend.
• “Gilded chopsticks”: Higher-end Asian restaurants are in the offing at places like Hakkasan in New York, San Francisco and Miami, and M.Y. China in San Francisco.

Over Trending Upcoming




Ice cream sandwiches




Beer and beer cocktails


Tea and tea cocktails