As the weather cools, it’s time to crank up the heat on your menu. That’s especially true if you’re among the many operators looking to extend outdoor dining as late as possible into the colder months this year. Add spice and other smoky seasonings to your marinades and sauces to elevate the depth, flavor and warmth of the meat, poultry and seafood on your menu. It can help you create the feeling of curling up by the fire.
Plant-based foods may be taking the spotlight, but carnivores are still driving some food trends. The National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot culinary forecast for 2020 named unique beef and pork cuts to its list of top-10 trends for the year. If you serve devoted meat eaters and want to offer some appealing options for them on your menu, consider some creative, on-trend reinventions of animal proteins. The What’s Hot forecast suggests adding sweet heat to dishes – and exploring global ethnic flavors, particularly those in Asian island cuisine.
Wouldn’t it be great to know what your guests will want to eat and drink not just next month or next season, but for the next two years? A recent Technomic forecast can tell you. The company has a menu predictive tool that includes machine learning, social listening tools and historical menu trends designed to map out consumer taste predictions for the next two years. Five items rose to the top: Is there a place for any of them on your menu? Two fiery sauces, Nashville hot and gochujang, will likely become widespread on menus in the coming months and years, according to Technomic’s findings. Nashville hot is a cayenne-based sauce that is associated with fried chicken – though the coming months may bring new applications. Gochujang, the Korean sauce made from fermented soybeans, dried chilies and garlic, manages to be spicy, salty and sweet. There were three beverages flagged for their anticipated rise in popularity: Ginger beer, Shochu and Mezcal. Ginger beer, which is made by fermenting ginger, yeast and sugar, is often non-alcoholic but has versatility as a mixer with alcoholic beverages. Shochu, the Japanese alcoholic beverage that can be made from ingredients as varied as sweet potatoes and barley, has a stronger taste than sake. Mezcal, a tequila relative, has a smoky flavor that is rising in popularity in both sweet and savory applications (one Washington, D.C. restaurant carries 35 varieties of the beverage).
As new food trends are identified each year, it seems there is always room for restaurants to use spices to innovate and bring global flavors to a menu. One company to watch is McCormick & Co. Its long history and traditional profile masks a tech-savvy strategy. The Spoon, which included McCormick on its Food Tech 25 list of companies making the greatest impact on food this year, reports that the spice brand’s new partnership with IBM Research AI will help it predict new flavor combinations and enhance old ones. The results may help you enhance your own menu offerings in a cost-effective way.