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2018 Hot Menu Trends in Foodservice

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There are some spicy new trends that should help foodservice operators get the most from their menus in 2018. Based on reviews of a half-million menus by Datassentials, here are five important trends to make your new year bright and spicy.

1. New Flavors Take Wing

Sports bars and casual dining operators will combine their wing sauce with one or two ingredients to make chicken wings magic again. By combining a few ounces of Kentucky bourbon to their wing sauce before they toss, they’ll have some irresistible bar food menus, like Bulleit Wing, Woodford Wings, and hopefully some high value Pappy Van Winkle Wings. Bourbon wings on the menu have grown by nearly 68% in the past four years. Other trending wing recipes are Parmesan Wings, up 55% (just add grated parm), Asian wings (try Texas Pete® Fiery Sweet BBQ Sauce for your toss, then sprinkle with some sesame seeds), up 49%.

2. “Spicy” Mentions On The Menu

Winning menu descriptions have a twist on the familiar that makes the item tantalizing with minimal risk. Terms, such as ‘hot’ were down on American menus in 2017 while the term ‘spicy’ was up. With Middle Eastern cuisines, such as Moroccan (up 15% in 2017) you will see more ‘spicy’ on menus in the new year.

3. Hand-Crafted Condiments

According to a survey of 700 American Culinary Federation members by the National Restaurant Association, house-made condiment will be another 2018 winner. The term ‘hand-crafted’ rose 17% in 2017 and has risen nearly 71% in the past four years. One of the most popular will be sriracha combined with mayo that can by prepped in minutes to adorn salads, sandwiches and sides. Sriracha aioli on the menu rose 26% in 2017.

4. Ethnic Spices Continue Their Rise

Look for more mentions of ethnic herbs and spices next year. Expect togarashi (Japanese chili pepper), turmeric, berbere and dukkah to be on the rise as ghost pepper, thai basil and tarragon move toward proliferating casual chain menus. Mentions of cayenne were one of the fastest growing menu mentions of 2017, up nearly 20%.

5. Veggie-Centric Will Continue

The great recession found several chef-centric concepts emerge, from ‘nose-to-tail’ to ‘veggie-centric’. While American consumers may now have had their fill of snoots and feet, vegetable-centric is a term we will hear even more about in 2018. The bastion of veggies is the veggie bowl, growing nearly 17% in 2017 and up 65% in the last four years. More chefs will leverage ethnic and other sauces to char or roast their vegetables and use fermenting to continue the rise of pickled sides and garnishes.

With more dining out options clashing with home delivery and meal kits, expect price wars and a renewed focus on tantalizing consumers with unique, but familiar menus in the new year.