BENCHMARK Names 2017’s Top Food Trends

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This year, chefs are becoming farmers, old-fashioned drinks are in vogue, and onions are appearing in unlikely places, according to an analysis of food trends by hospitality company, BENCHMARK. The company attributes many of the trends to so-called “millennials” with adventurous tastes, disposable income, and nostalgia for foods they may have missed growing up. Below are some of those top trends.

1. Millennials Influencing F&B
According to BENCHMARK, this demographic is dining out more than previous generations and they are generally looking for healthy, sustainable, and original dishes based on natural ingredients that are responsibly sourced. Growing up in a more diverse society, they have been exposed to a variety of foods and seem more likely to try new dishes. Technically savvy and issues-oriented, millennials are generally a demographic known to do their research and aim to be informed consumers. They are interested in food, environmental issues and natural, healthy ingredients as well as animal welfare, and chefs across the country have been responding to those interests.

2. Custom Farming
Contemporary chefs are taking the farm-to-table movement to new levels as chefs become more involved in the growing the food they serve, right down to planning what seeds will be cultivated for new menu development. Chefs have partnered with local farms and purchased plots of land for growing produce, and some are providing staff training to their culinary teams. Farms are also hosting events and dinners on site.


3. Updated Classics
Updated versions of American classics are making appearances in hotel F&B offerings. Foods many consumers grew up with are being remade with less fat, fresher ingredients, and with more sophistication in preparation. Classic sandwiches like BLTs, Reubens, and Grilled Cheese have evolved into innovations of homemade bread, artisanal cheese, smoked meats, and food produced in-house, including fermentation, pickling, and curing.

4. Eggs At Hours
From burgers, salads, and even entrees, eggs are appearing well after breakfast and brunch. Baked, boiled, fried, scrambled, or deviled, eggs are finding their way into frittatas, in soups, and atop meat, rice, and grains. Incorporating an egg to a favorite meal gives the food another dimension in flavor and texture. Egg varieties are appearing on American hotel restaurant tables—quail eggs in canapés, salads, and with smoked fish and duck eggs as a heartier, more flavorful option. Guests are also increasingly looking for organic, free-range eggs that are not produced in “factory farms.”

5. Onions
Onions are emerging in an array of new and exciting ways in jams and desserts—think sage and nutmeg onion gratin, corned beef and onion sweet jam, onion and cockle chowder, and even onion ice cream.

6. Doughnuts
Doughnuts are bringing a new dimension to sandwiches—doughnut burgers and po’ boys are making an appearance in hotel restaurants.

7. Plant-Based Dishes
Plant-based diets are growing in popularity. Vegetables such as chard, kale, and daikon are often staples on menus while new varieties of squash, tomatoes, cabbage, and potatoes are becoming available. Chefs are replacing animal proteins on menus with plant-based ingredients that include sea vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and whole grains.

8. Good Libations
Jazz Age cocktails, bourbon, and beer cocktails are trending nationwide. Consumers of all demographics are driving trends in cocktails with a resurgence in Prohibition-era drinks, such as French 75s, Whiskey Sours, Manhattans, and Southsiders. During Prohibition, these retro cocktails, made with fruits and syrups, were developed by creative bartenders to hide the harsh taste of bootleg alcohol. Today, fresh and often more exotic fruits, a variety of tonics and garnishes, and high-quality liquor make dynamic cocktails. Bourbon consumption continues its meteoric rise with carefully crafted and exclusive Bourbons.

9. Sustainable Fishing
As fish becomes more expensive and many grow scarce, farm-raised fish are becoming a sustainable option for less pricey and more plentiful seafood.

10. Expo Kitchens
Driven by Food TV in all its incarnations and the prevalence of social media outlets, restaurant kitchens today offer a front row seat at a dining performance and guests are crowding around to take in the aromas, flavors, cooking tips and high energy of the stars of the show—the chefs.