6 Dining Trends to Dish Up in 2019

Restaurateurs and hospitality experts predict what’s going to be hot next year.
VEGETABLE TRADITO
Gilles Epie, executive chef at Juvia in Miami Beach, created this vegetable tradito dish for his restaurant. (Photo: Chad Fabrikant)

Dining experiences are rarely the same from one year to the next. One of the best ways to ensure your restaurant’s longevity is to make tweaks that reflect customers’ changing preferences. So, how should you pivot your menu and services in 2019?

No one can say for sure what will be popular next year. However, experienced restaurateurs and hospitality experts have a few predictions that might inspire you. Here are the 2019 dining trends that you shouldn’t ignore.

Chef as the star

People rarely go to restaurants just for the food — they want a dynamic experience that engages them socially, as well. Diners will look for restaurants that allow them to interact with the chef in 2019.

Daniel Boulud headshot

“Smaller format restaurants with counter dining and open kitchens [are offering] tasting menus and wine pairings where the chef can be more spontaneous and free with their cooking and present with the guest.” – Daniel Boulud (Photo: Helge Kirchberger)

“Smaller format restaurants with counter dining and open kitchens [are offering] tasting menus and wine pairings where the chef can be more spontaneous and free with their cooking and present with the guest,” said Daniel Boulud, a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Boulud Sud Miami, among other restaurants. “It gives the opportunity for the chefs to have an ‘Actor’s Studio’ environment.”

Related: How to Host the Ultimate New Year’s Eve Party at Your Restaurant

If you’ve considered offering a chef’s table at your restaurant, 2019 is the perfect time to do it.

Plants reign supreme

Got a meat-heavy menu? You might want to balance it out with some veggies in 2019. Experts predict that diners will be seeking out more meat-free meals next year.

“[Customers want] vegan, plant-based options, including cheeses. As restaurateurs, if we don’t figure out how to tap into that market, we’ll be left behind,” said Jim Pastor, eastern regional chef at Specialty Restaurants Corporation.

And if you think salad will satisfy your herbivorous diners, think again. They want meals that are every bit as thoughtful and tasty as their meaty counterparts.

“I recently developed a dish that’s a perfect example of this trend: vegetable tiradito,” said Gilles Epie, executive chef at Juvia in Miami Beach. “All of the vegetables are cooked sous vide for two hours before I slice them and serve them with a dressing of coconut milk with lime and dry soy salt to finish.”

Fun with fermentation

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“In 2019, you’ll see a lot of fermented vegetables, chilis and aged vinegar.” – Jeremy Ford (Photo: Grove Bay Hospitality Group)

Fermented foods used to be foreign to Americans, but increasingly health-conscious diners have developed a palate for these funky flavors. Adding fermented foods to a few of your dishes could appeal to customers in 2019, said Jeremy Ford, winner of “Top Chef” season 13 and executive chef at Stubborn Seed.

“When ‘The Noma Guide to Fermentation’ came out in October, it was everywhere within a few days. In 2019, you’ll see a lot of fermented vegetables, chilis and aged vinegar,” he said.

Simply adding some yogurt to a favorite dessert or offering kombucha on tap could satisfy customer cravings for fermented foods.

Mixing up mocktails

Fancy drinks have been a hit with customers for awhile. But this year, they want equally elaborate concoctions from the bar, sans alcohol.

“In 2019, the creative mocktail trend continues and chefs are becoming involved in crafting these flavorful beverages,” said Ashley Hamik, a restaurant consultant in San Francisco.

“Some examples include Rich Table’s sodas in cranberry-orange and Douglas fir with lemon-lime, Nightbird‘s ‘Quince Sour’ made with Seedlip Garden (the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit), Commonwealth‘s ‘carrot Michelada with turmeric Tajin’ and Gibson‘s ‘smoked cherry Kola.’”

The beauty of mocktails, compared with traditionally nonalcoholic drinks like sodas and juices, is that they can command prices that rival the rest of the drinks on your bar menu.

Bread is back

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Bread has gotten a bad rap, but it’s gradually returning to the menu. (Photo: Jerry James Stone)

While the world shunned gluten for awhile, the majority of diners are warming back up to the substance — and they expect restaurants to pay some extra attention to their breads next year.

“For the last decade, bread hadn’t been a focus for restaurants. A serious lack of effort went into this age-old menu component as diners considered bread as an evil carb monster,” said Eddie Navarette, chief consultant of FE Design and Consulting. “Not anymore. Bread is taking the spotlight back and everything from buns to pizza dough is becoming important to diners.”

However, with the increased awareness around gluten allergies and sensitivities, it’s still a good idea to offer gluten-free alternatives to your crusty breads.

Meals with zero waste

Using every ingredient to its fullest has always helped chefs pad their bottom lines. But this year, minimizing waste can also help you attract more customers, said Caitlin Brancale, owner of culinary communications consulting firm Poppyseed.

Related: How to Accurately Cost Out a Recipe

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“It’s more important than ever to focus on sustainability in restaurant kitchens and moving toward zero waste in 2019.” – Caitlin Brancale (Photo: Caitlin Brancale)

“It’s more important than ever to focus on sustainability in restaurant kitchens and moving toward zero waste in 2019,” she said. “Chefs are now finding ways to use all parts of the ingredients, from making broths out of crustacean shells and reusing rendered fats to finding ways to incorporate produce that is overly ripe.”

Finding ways to cut back on waste will challenge your kitchen’s creativity and ultimately lead to new culinary offerings your customers will love, for both their innovation and their gentleness on Mother Earth.

No one has a crystal ball that can predict which trends will blow up next year. But by observing customer behavior and embracing their changing values and preferences, your restaurant will feel like the local “it” place to eat in 2019 — and beyond.

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