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Chicken Sandwich

What’s Hot, and What’s Not

Health will be an increasingly important focus on menus in 2022, according to the recently released “What’s Hot Culinary Forecast” from the National Restaurant Association.

The annual report looks at topics, trends, and products expected to drive restaurant menus across all dayparts, menu categories, beverages, flavors, and packaging. To compile the report, more than 350 chefs rated 109 food items in October. The restaurateurs were asked to label each item as “Hot,” “Not Hot,” or “Perennial Favorite.” The report also features a “Chef’s Choice” section where respondents gave their own answer of what would trend in 2022. 

Beyond a meal’s physical health impacts, consumers will look for responsible sustainability practices, the report indicates, such as reusable and recyclable packaging, zero-waste options, and plant-based offerings. Additionally, chefs anticipate more alcohol-infused desserts and globally inspired options in a growing movement to create more refined menus.

“In addition to a return to health-focused menu offerings and more eco-friendly, improved off-premises packaging, all of which rated high in the top trends, we’re expecting operators to look across their menus for transformative opportunities,” Hudson Riehle, the Association’s senior vice president of research said in a statement. “Look for trends that fuse the traditional meal daypart items with other dayparts and an increasing popularity of snacking and its allied items. Also, with the popularity of cocktails-to-go during the pandemic, restaurants will look to expand both alcoholic and non-alcoholic craft beverage options.”

The following are the top trends to look for in 2022, including an overall scope and a specific look at dayparts and food and beverage categories. 

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Top 10 Trends for 2022

1. Packaging: Sustainable (reusable/recyclable)

2. Packaging: Food quality (travels intact)

3. Packaging: Retains temperature

4. Zero waste/sustainability

5. Immunity-boosting snacks

6. Menu streamlining (fewer menu items, cutting SKUs)

7. Immunity-boosting/functional ingredients

8. Plant-based sandwiches

9. Packaging: Food security (tamper-proof)

10. Alternative sweetners (maple sugar, coconut sugar) 

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Cooling Trends in 2022

1. Milk-based cocktails 

2. Mushroom beverages (coffee, etc.)

3. Breakfast salads

4. Bone broth/meat stock cocktails

5. Chica morada (Peruvian purple corn-based drink)

6. Carbonated coffee

7. Fish/seafood meatballs

8. Breakfast cookies

9. Spiked green juices

10. Canned wine 

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Top Breakfast Trends

1. Nontraditional breakfast proteins (chorizo, vegan bacon)

2. Plant-based breakfast sandwiches

3. Egg-based breakfast bowls

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Top Lunch Trends

1. Plant-based sandwiches

2. Globally inspired salads

3. Grain-based bowls

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Top Dinner Trends

1. Less-expensive chicken cuts (thighs vs. wings)

2. Plant-based burgers

3. Less-expensive beef cuts (beef chuck vs. loin)

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Top Appetizer & Sides Trends

1. Upscale potato chips (new preparations, flavored with new unexpected ingredients)

2. New appetizer wings (flavor-fusion sauces, global accents, plant-based protein vs. chicken)

3. Globally spiced fries (with furikake, za’atar, etc.)

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Top Dessert Trends

1. Alternative sweetners (maple sugar, coconut sugar)

2. Alcohol infusions

3. CBD desserts

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Top Snack Trends

1. Immunity-boosting snacks

2. CBD-infused snacks

3. Reduced-sugar snacks

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Top Non-Alcoholic Beverage Trends

1. Nut milks (cashew, pistachio, etc.)

2. Non-alcoholic seltzers/sparkling water

3. CBD-infused beverages

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Top Alcoholic Beverage Trends

1. Hard seltzer

2. Uniquely spiced cocktail rims (Tajin, togarashi, etc.)

3. At-home cocktail kits

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Top Condiments, Sauces, Spices, Seasonings Trends

1. Gochujang

2. Tajin

3. Harissa

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Top Global Trends

1. Southeast Asian (Vietnamese, Signaporean, Phillippine, etc.)

2. South American (Argentinian, Brazilian, Chilean, etc.)

3. Caribbean (Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, etc.)

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Top Packaging/Off-Premises Trends

1. Sustainable (reusable/recyclable)

2. Food quality (travels intact)

3. Retains temperature

Image credits:Adobe Stock

Top Macro Trends

1. Zero waste/sustainability

2. Menu streamlining (fewer menu items, cutting SKUs, etc.)

3. Immunity-boosting/functional ingredients




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Chef’s Choice: Hottest Culinary Trends

1. Sustainability

2. Plant-Based foods

3. Comfort foods

4. Healthy and immunity-boosting foods

5. Global fare and flavors 


(Chefs were asked to type their answer for this section. More than 86 percent of respondents answered. These results drew the highest number of responses.)

Image credits:Bel Foodservice
Consumer Trends, Slideshow