Customer traffic may be in a downward trend for restaurants this year, but a new report from the National Restaurant Association shows that pent-up demand for in-restaurant experiences remains strong.
The annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast found that 70 percent of the 500 professional chefs surveyed noted a desire among customers to gather on-premises. Overall, the report found that cravings for restaurant dining are proving resilient against inflationary pressures. Additionally, customers are eager to connect over shared meals that can’t easily be replicated at home.
The Top 10 Hots Trends for 2023 are:
- Experiences/local culture and community
- Fried chicken sandwiches & chicken sandwiches 3.0 (spicy and sweet-heat fusion flavors on chicken, etc.)
- Charcuterie boards
- Comfort fare
- Flatbread sandwiches/healthier wraps
- Menu streamlining
- Sriracha variations
- Globally inspired salads
- Zero waste/sustainability/upcycled foods
- Southeast Asian cuisines
“The What’s Hot forecast for 2023 is an evolutionary reflection of both pandemic trends and current economic pressures,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the association. “Inflation is shifting consumer spending habits, and while there is a heightened appetite for restaurant experiences and connection, diners are laser-focused on finding value. The challenge is how to fuse consumer desires for the new and trendy with their expectations for price paid.”
The report also identifies how eating habits are changing. The prevalence of remote work has profoundly disrupted typical daypart operations and dissolved traditional meal and work times. Further, the convenience of being able to order any kind of meal through delivery, curbside pickup, counter pickup, or drive-thru at any time of day is creating new opportunities to entice customers. Handheld menu options such as French toast sticks or chicken and waffle sandwiches are satisfying the growing demand for convenient meals around the clock.
“Understanding changing consumer desires is essential to the success of restaurants in every community across the country,” said Michelle Korsmo, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.