Much like fashion, food trends can be fickle — but for the already restaurant-obsessed, 2016's biggest culinary trends will likely come as no big surprise. The National Restaurant Association just released its annual report on the coming year's most prominent menu trends, for which it surveyed 1,600 chefs across the country.
Nabbing the number-one spot is locally sourced proteins; 44 percent of the chefs surveyed picked local sourcing as the food trend that's grown the most over the past decade. If your local burger joint and steakhouse don't already tout the provenance of their beef, they surely will soon — and expect more restaurants to sprout rooftop or backyard gardens, too: Locally grown produce is the number three trend for 2016, with "hyper-local" sourcing clocking in at number four.
The number-two trend according to chefs is chef-driven fast-casual concepts — as New Yorkers currently caught in the throes of full-fledged Fuku mania can no doubt attest to. While Momofuku head honcho David Chang pelts the city with fried chicken sandwiches, plenty of other big-name chefs are also getting into the fast-casual game: Spanish chef José Andrés recently unleashed the vegetable-driven Beefsteak concept on Washington D.C.; fine dining chefs Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi are preparing to unveil a fast food chain, Loco'l; and chef Joshua Skenes of San Francisco's acclaimed Saison is working on a fast-casual noodle concept.
Reached by phone, Director of Research at the National Restaurant Association Annika Stensson notes that this is the 10th year the NRA has completed the survey. Setnnson says restaurants are keeping up with trends quite well, including restaurants from all dining segments, from fast food to fast-casual, and fine dining. On surprises in the data set she notes, "We saw quite a few things pop-up, the top 10 trends for this year are sort of similar to last year... [but] numbers 11 through 20 of the survey this year I think there are some interesting things happening, including with authentic ethnic cuisines and artisan butchery for example, and house-made or artisan products like pickles and sausages."
Other notable trends that made the top 20 list include environmental sustainability, artisan butchery, healthy kids' meals, and food waste reduction. Home meal delivery kits like Blue Apron didn't crack the top 20, but still made a significant showing at number 33.
Also of note: The surveyed chefs proclaim insects, foam, and molecular gastronomy as "yesterday's news," but proclaim that fried chicken will continue to reign supreme as a "perennial favorite." Meanwhile, kale haters may soon find some respite: According to the survey, going into 2016 the ubiquitous green is trending downward — as are its close friends quinoa and coconut water.
Scope out the full list of the NRA's top 20 menu trends for 2016, below:
1. Locally sourced meats and seafood2. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts3. Locally grown produce4. Hyper-local sourcing5. Natural ingredients/minimally processed food6. Environmental sustainability7. Healthful kids' meals8. New cuts of meat9. Sustainable seafood10. House-made/artisan ice cream11. Ethnic condiments/spices12. Authentic ethnic cuisine13. Farm/estate branded items14. Artisan butchery15. Ancient grains16. Ethnic-inspired breakfast items17. Fresh/house-made sausage18. House-made/artisan pickles19. Food waste reduction/management20. Street food/food trucks