Here Are the Top Menu Trends for 2018, According to the National Restaurant Association

A survey of over 700 chefs identified the hottest foods and concepts as we move into the new year.

Fresh produce
Vegetables. Photo: jeffbergen / Getty Images

As the year flies towards its close, everyone is rushing to unveil their 2017 roundups and 2018 predictions. Fitting into that latter category, we've seen analysis from upmarket grocery chains like Whole Foods and Waitrose, thoughts on dessert trends from Christina Tosi, and even ideas on next year's wedding trends. Now, a new list from an authoritative source has been revealed: The National Restaurant Association surveyed over 700 members of the American Culinary Federation to compile its list of "What's Hot" for menu trends in 2018 – and if their results are accurate, expect new cuts of meat and hyper-local in-house-made items to be the biggest thing in restaurants next year.

To compile the list, over the past two months, chefs were asked to rate 161 items as a "hot trend," "yesterday's news," or "perennial favorite." The results were then broken down into a number of different categories: The major groupings were "food trends," "concept trends" and "beverage trends," with a number of subcategories identified from there.

But sticking with the big stuff, "new cuts of meat (e.g. shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak, Merlot cut)" has been identified as 2018's top food trend, with 69 percent of chefs designating it a "hot trend." Rounding out the top ten are house-made condiments, street food-inspired dishes (e.g. tempura, kabobs, dumplings, pupusas), international-inspired breakfast items (e.g. chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes), sustainable seafood, healthful kids' meals, vegetable carb substitutes (e.g. cauliflower rice, zucchini spaghetti), uncommon herbs (e.g. chervil, lovage, lemon balm, papalo), authentic world cuisine, and international spices (e.g. harissa, curry, peri peri, ras el hanout, shichimi). Meanwhile, sorry pumpkin spice: You ranked dead last on the list of hot food trends for 2018. Fingers crossed!

As far as the top concept trends are concerned, "hyper-local (e.g. restaurant gardens, onsite beer brewing, house-made items)" landed in the top spot, identified as hot by 74 percent of those surveyed. Chef-driven fast casual concepts, natural ingredients/clean menus, food waste reduction, and veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine (e.g. fresh produce is star of the dish) round out the top five.

"Local, vegetable-forward, and ethnic-inspired menu items will reign supreme in the upcoming year," Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of Research at the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement. "Guests are implementing these trends in their own lifestyles and want to see them reflected on restaurant menus. In response, chefs are creating more items in-house and turning to global flavors."

Of course, no meal is complete without a good beverage. In 2018, the National Restaurant Association suggests that home-made/artisan soft drinks will be the biggest non-alcoholic drink trend and culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients, herb-infused) will reign with alcoholic drinks, followed closely by locally produced spirits/wine/beer.

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