Trying new foods is a top priority for many travelers when they’re on the road. These diners are looking for meals that pique their curiosity and present ingredients in a way they’ve never seen before. These striving diners are leading some interesting trends, especially in the hotel food and beverage space. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, a brand known for its eccentric amenities and singular guest experiences, is also renowned for giving their chefs and bartenders free reign to incorporate interesting ingredients and introduce new and exciting dishes at their properties. This morning, the brand released its 2018 Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast. To put together this forecast, Kimpton surveyed chefs, general managers, and bartenders from over 80 of their hotels in the U.S., Europe, and the Caribbean.
Alex Taylor, senior vice president of bars and restaurants for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, explains that because Kimpton chefs and bartenders make their own menus, the brand presents a kind of microcosm of the industry at large. “When we talk about these trends, it starts with a basic reaching out to our team in the field and finding out what they are seeing. And then tell us not only what they’re seeing and what’s inspiring them, they tell us what they’re doing about it and what they’ve created.”
There are several trends that chefs and bartenders are bringing to the table or bar top in 2018. First, the forecast predicts guests going back to their roots with familiar, throwback familiar dishes. These can be either a hearty French onion soup, a well-known pork chop and apple sauce, or a classic American burger. Diners want to see these traditional favorites served with a re-imagined twist. Taylor says, “After so many years of weird ingredients, people are wanting a little bit of old school in their dining options, so we think travelers are going to see a lot of throwback dishes in 2018. We’ve seen it trending in the primary markets now, which means it’ll soon start to appear in secondary and tertiary markets. It’s simply a new level of comfort food.”
And while some trends are giving diners comfort, others are reflecting popularity in the tourist industry. The Nordic region is becoming a more popular travel destination, and Kimpton is beginning to show that in its dishes. Ingredients like bramble and rhubarb are showing up in cocktails, and fish and colorful vegetables are more prominently featured on menus. Other trends that the Kimpton survey is predicting for 2018 are meat alternatives and Chifa, the blending of Cantonese and Peruvian flavors.
On the bar side of things, alcoholic beverages are being infused and blended with vegetables to make unlikely cocktails. Taylor saw this trend began with snap peas and cucumbers. Then, more ingredients like beets, carrots, and green beans where thrown into the mix. One Kimpton restaurant is even serving avocado in one of their cocktails. Taylor was wary at first, but quickly came around after tasting it. “I was not expecting to love it, but I do. It’s delicious,” he says. Taylor also notes that guests are ordering these veggie cocktails because they’re fun and unusual. “You’re going to see a lot of experimentation with vegetables in cocktails because it’s somewhat uncharted territory. It’s exciting to see where we can go next and there’s a lot of room to run with finer ingredients.”
Kimpton is already implementing these trends at restaurants to prepare for the increase in demand come 2018. For now, Kimpton will continue to build on creative concepts that interest new guests. Taylor adds, “In work like this, we have a chance to collect, find, and showcase what our talented people are doing and, more importantly, what they’re seeing in the market through their lens. The most exciting part is how it shows what our people are up to and seeing in the market.”
To read more from Kimpton’s 2018 forecast, click HERE.
Photo: Choereg Bread with Zaatar from Bambara Kitchen & Bar in Cambridge, Mass.