SAN FRANCISCO — To refresh its seventh annual Culinary & Cocktail Trend Forecast for 2021, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants released a look back at how the pandemic has impacted food and beverage trends of 2020 and shared predictions for how evolving consumer behavior will shape 2021 trends. It’s no secret that 2020 has been a year unlike any other—from the country’s sourdough and banana bread baking obsession to the viral Dalgona coffee wave and plenty of virtual wine tastings, what we eat and drink has served as a way to safely connect us as a global community. In 2021 consumers can expect a new wave of trends, from the rise of garden goods to a resurgence of health foods, as this pandemic continues to shift the way diners eat, cook, and imbibe.
“We know that diners’ needs have changed—the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the foodie or at-home chef in many of us. While diners first leaned into comfort and nostalgia, heading into the new year, we’re seeing a return to health and wellness-inspired culinary and cocktail creations,” said Scott Gingerich, Kimpton’s senior vice president of Restaurants & Bars. “This forecast touches on some of the biggest takeaways from 2020, which trends are already starting to fade, and how evolving preferences are driving dining and drinking for 2021.”
To uncover takeaways from 2020 for this year’s trend report, data analysts reviewed in-restaurant, takeout, and room service orders from more than 75 Kimpton restaurants and bars and combined those insights with predictions and analysis from food and beverage leaders across Kimpton restaurants worldwide. Kimpton will use these findings to inspire its offerings for the year ahead and create new experiences and menu items for its guests.
Below are Kimpton’s takeaways for 2020 and predictions for 2021.
Culinary: 2020 Takeaways
- Treat Yourself: Restaurant Edition — While consumers cooked more than ever before this year, they missed more elevated or complex meals. This led to a surge in restaurant orders of dishes guests couldn’t execute as easily at home—including prime rib, roast duck, freshly shucked oysters, and paella. The Four Month Dry-Aged NY Strip Steak at Citizen Rail at Kimpton Hotel Born in Denver was also a diner favorite.
- “Home-Cooked” Takeout — Kimpton saw a rise in demand for do-it-yourself restaurant-quality food that can be easily prepared or heated up with simple instructions at home. Consumers ordered ready-to-heat soups, taco kits and sandwiches, and to-go cocktails where they simply combine the ingredients, add ice, and garnish.
- Nostalgic Comfort Food — The most popular room service orders included burgers, pizza, grilled cheese, and pasta. The data showed that salads saw one of the sharpest declines in food items purchased from March to September across all restaurants. At Kimpton Vividora Hotel in Barcelona, cheesecake has been a surprising hit this year, and at the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel in Manchester, England, F&B leaders saw a spike in demand for burgers and grilled cheese.
Culinary: 2021 Predictions
- Comfort Food Will Fade and Health Food Will Reign — Over the last several weeks, Kimpton has already seen a shift away from comfort food towards healthy dishes with fresher ingredients and even more vegan and vegetarian options. Expect healthy, hearty bowls using grains like bulgur or farro, with roasted vegetables and mushrooms and punchy, herbal dressings. Freeze-dried fruits and veggies will also see a surge in popularity. Lastly, expect carob to make a comeback—the plant-based, low sugar, antioxidant-rich ingredient serves as a natural sweetener.
- Garden Pesto and Edible Cactus: The New Banana Bread — Home gardens are all the rage, with people adding fresh herbs, citrus, chilies, and veggies to their dishes. The next iteration of this is homemade oat milk, pesto, jam, and pickled everything. Burgeoning home chefs are dehydrating, canning, fermenting, and pickling more than ever before. People are also starting to grow and eat some cacti species, adding unique flavors and health benefits to an array of dishes. Grilled cactus can be part of a flavorful fajita dish or elevate a tossed salad with unexpected texture in each bite.
- Local is the New Sustainable — There is a growing sense of community and support for local businesses and suppliers, and the desire to band together and help local communities push through these difficult times. People will also prefer locally sourced foods that represent the area of the restaurant. As an example, King Tide Fish & Shell at Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel in Portland recently partnered with the chef of nearby Olympia Oyster Bar to create “Cockteles y Mariscos”—a six-course pairing menu of cocktails and fresh seafood-based dishes.
Cocktail/Beverage: 2020 Takeaways
- Pour Me a Strong One — Single servings of agave and mezcal were one of three—alongside sparkling wine and Riesling—beverages that saw a big spike in orders. Kimpton also saw a rise in elevated cocktails on-property, as many guests weren’t as comfortable making these at home. To-go and large-format cocktails have also been more popular than ever for takeout. Additionally, the category of “happy hour” (enjoyed outdoors, in-room, or to-go) saw a 17 percent increase year over year, possibly indicating that consumers are looking for more economical options in this challenging economic climate.
- Making a Sour Year Sweeter — Bottles of Riesling and sparkling wine both saw increases in purchases, which are two of only seven offerings across all categories that experienced year-over-year increases. Riesling saw the largest beverage growth, across both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, with a 32 percent increase.
- Drinks Education — Wine and cocktail education was a huge trend in 2020, with virtual cooking, cocktail making, and wine tasting sessions gaining popularity during quarantine. This trend, which was adopted by Kimpton via Virtual Social Hours, gave bartenders and sommeliers a chance to connect with consumers directly, sharing the stories behind the wines and drinks they create.
Cocktail/Beverage: 2021 Predictions
- Mocktails and “Cleaner” Cocktails — Consumers will be looking for fresher, “healthier” cocktails in 2021. Expect to see a demand for dual-purpose mocktails and cocktails with lower ABV and ingredients like honey, ginger, green tea, lemon, vegetables, and herbs. Hard kombucha, spiked seltzers, and CBD in drinks, boozy coffee, natural wines, and lower-calorie wines are also here to stay.
- Goodbye Vodka Sodas—Bring on the Elaborate Cocktails — Because it’s all about balance, consumers will still treat themselves when they want to indulge. Fewer drinking occasions mean imbibers will be more likely to try a memorable concoction. Many will prefer cocktails with premium spirits that incorporate more unusual or uncommon ingredients. For example, at Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo, people are getting cocktail curious with ingredients like lamb fat-infused gin and dried mushrooms.
- All-Encompassing “Drinks Sommelier” — Kimpton experts predict the evolution of the sommelier as someone that is a master of more than just wine. A “Drinks Sommelier” will be an expert that guides diners through the nuances of premium rum, whiskey, and tequila, in addition to wines, beers, and sake. These sipping spirits have piqued the interest of cocktail lovers for their diversity, character, and complex flavors.
- Wanderlust-Inspired Wines — Due to the newfound knowledge from wine education courses during quarantine, consumers are looking for diversity in their wines and products. Kimpton predicts wines from regions like Moldova, Croatia, Hungary, Morocco, Lebanon, South Africa, and Mexico—places travelers dreamed of going in 2020—will emerge as people will become more open-minded about trying new regions and producers.
Dining Experience: 2020 Takeaways
- More Outdoor Dining Options — Safer, socially distant outdoor dining is unsurprisingly in demand, leading to restaurateurs investing in new outdoor spaces, layouts, and creative experiences. These new or enhanced spaces have created the closest thing to a pre-pandemic dining experience that most people have missed while in quarantine.
- Streamlined Menus — To minimize food waste and simplify things for restaurants, Kimpton saw tighter and smaller menus, with an emphasis on verbal daily specials to help expand menus when needed.
- Private Dining and Drinking — While banquet dining and business-driven group dinners decreased, private dining soared with a large increase seen year over year as consumers were looking for COVID-friendly isolated dining. At Kimpton Maa Lai Bangkok, hotel management saw success with masked bartenders making Daiquiris, Old Fashioneds, and Manhattans for guests in the safety and privacy of their own room.
Dining Experience: 2021 Predictions
- Creative Dining Options to Suit Any Climate — Restaurateurs will continue adding new outdoor dining experiences, even in markets with cold weather. Expect to see every outdoor space reimagined to create unique experiences for guests. For instance, Kimpton Clocktower Hotel in Manchester is creating a Winter Garden for guests to enjoy brunch, afternoon tea, and cocktails and Kimpton Maa Lai Bangkok is offering Cycle & Picnic packages so guests can enjoy the outdoors while eating an elevated and tasty meal.
- More Intimate, Highly Personalized Event Spaces — From an events perspective, guests are looking for intimate, highly personalized experiences in spaces that are comfortable, warm, and have an inviting atmosphere. Outdoor microweddings have been popular at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, with personalized, next-level details like a Smoked Out Old-Fashioned Station, customized face masks for every guest, and sunset helicopter rides for the newlyweds.
- Ambiance Matters More Than Ever — Going out is more of a treat than ever before and, as a result, consumers will see more tented, heated rooftop spaces, leveraging high-quality sound systems and playlists to create a perfect atmosphere for guests. Restaurateurs and bar owners will go all-in on lighting, greenery, landscaping, heating and cooling, and framed-in views. For instance, Kimpton Journeyman Hotel in Milwaukee offers spaced out rooftop dining and drinking with views of the city.