Food trends

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Las Vegas Vegan Culinary School Slated for April Opening

Las Vegas Vegan Culinary School Slated for April Opening

by David Klemt

This has been a big year for veganism already.

Multiple sources have named vegan food as a hot (and therefore lucrative) “trend” to watch this year.

The Michelin Guide France awarded a star to an entirely vegan restaurant in France for the first time in history.

And now, news out of Las Vegas is further making this Veganuary one for the books.

Global destination that it is, Las Vegas does its best to appeal to the greatest number of people possible. There are close to two dozen restaurants considered wholly vegan, and hundreds of other venues have vegan-friendly options. For several years now, every restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas has had vegan options on their menus.

The fact that Las Vegas is picking up steam as a vegan-friendly hotspot can be attributed to a few factors.

One, destination cities are about delivering on top-notch experiences. Vegas is no exception—amazing experiences keep people coming back. Two, if it’s trending, it’s very likely available somewhere in Vegas. The more popular it becomes, the more widely available it is throughout the city. And three, Las Vegas operators aren’t in the habit of letting a lucrative opportunity slide by them. People are willing to pay money for vegan food? Then vegan food they shall have!

Vegas Vegan Culinary School & Eatery is slated to open in April 2021. Located in the Arts District of Downtown Las Vegas, the venue will operate as a vegan deli, coffee shop, weekly meal delivery service, space for events and fundraisers, and brick-and-mortar and online culinary school.

According to Vegas Vegan’s Instagram page, demo at their location began around the middle of this month. A post from two days ago shows buildout progress.

This type of project moving from concept to buildout is a big deal for the city, culinary students, vegans, and those curious about the vegan diet. It’s also a big development for vegan food in general.

It’s certainly too early to declare 2021 food trend predictions accurate, of course. However, the opening of a dedicated vegan culinary school and restaurant certainly hints at vegan food ramping up in popularity this year. The same can be said for vegetarian and plant-based diets as well.

Moving forward, it’s going to be important and profitable for operators to have at least a few vegan-friendly F&B menu options. To fail to do so is to alienate vegans, and in this industry alienation equals lost revenue, something no operator can afford.

For those uncertain about what food items to add to their main, delivery and takeout menus, Grubhub listed the below as their top five vegan orders of 2020:

  1. Tofu spring rolls (263 percent more popular in 2020 than 2019)
  2. Plant based burger (251 percent more popular in 2020 than 2019)
  3. Black bean taco (242 percent more popular in 2020 than 2019)
  4. Vegan chocolate cake (211 percent more popular in 2020 than 2019)
  5. Vegan ramen (183 percent more popular in 2020 than 2019)

Succeeding with vegan or other diet-specific items comes down to thoughtful consideration of what will be authentic to a particular restaurant or bar. Just slapping anything vegan on the menu is simply not good enough.

Image: Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Delivery and Takeout Food Trends for 2021: United States

Delivery and Takeout Food Trends for 2021: United States

by David Klemt

Yesterday we reviewed food delivery data and 2021 food trend predictions for Canada. Now it’s the United States’ turn.

Before we jump into the data and predictions, a word on succeeding with delivery in 2021 and beyond.

As I pointed out yesterday, when an operator signs up with a third-party delivery service, their guest data becomes the delivery company’s data.

That means that company and not the restaurant or bar owns the guest journey and guest engagement, and therefore owns the guest for all intents and purposes.

When a restaurant, bar or other F&B business enters into a contract with a third-party delivery company—unless otherwise explicitly stated—they give up control of targeted marketing efforts. In other words, third-party delivery platforms disrupt the guest journey.

Delivery became a way for many businesses to generate revenue during 2020, for obvious reasons. Operators who can afford to implement first-part and last-mile delivery should do so to maximize their revenue and control the guest journey and marketing.

To help operators own delivery, we’ve reviewed end-of-year reports from three delivery titans—UberEats, Grubhub and DoorDash—to share their 2020 findings. When it comes to the most ordered items, cuisines and categories, some third-party platforms are willing to share data.

According to UberEats, comfort foods were the most popular category:

  • Burgers and fries
  • Burritos
  • Pad Thai
  • Mac and cheese
  • California rolls
  • Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Miso soup
  • Mozzarella sticks

Per the platform, the following cuisines proved most popular:

  • American
  • Italian
  • Mexican
  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Thai
  • Indian
  • French
  • Caribbean
  • Greek

As UberEats stated in their report, it appears that customers found a way to travel after all—they just did it through food.

Pizza, bagels, wings, tacos, burgers and dumplings led the way for Grubhub in 2020. The most popular pizza order was Hawaiian (because some people are monsters and put pineapple on their pies), while the most popular burger was garlic mushroom. Grubhub revealed that their top French fry was the loaded curly fry, and the most popular plant-based item was the eggplant burger.

In descending order, the top F&B Grubhub orders overall from 2020 were:

  • Spicy chicken sandwich
  • Chicken burrito bowl
  • Chicken wings
  • Waffle fries
  • Cold brew coffee
  • Steak quesadilla
  • Iced latte
  • Fish and chips
  • Strawberry shake
  • Roast beef sandwich

Per Grubhub, the top breakfast item was the acai bowl, the top side dish was French fries, the number-one late-night order was strawberry cheesecake, and the most ordered dessert was apple pie.

Moving on to DoorDash, the platform identified their top ten 2020 items back in November:

  • Chicken fingers and French fries
  • Fried chicken sandwich
  • Mac and cheese
  • Chips and guacamole
  • Apple pie
  • Pad Thai
  • Chicken quesadilla
  • Iced coffee
  • California roll
  • Chicken Tikka Masala

The UberEats, Grubhub and DoorDash revelations align with data collected by the National Restaurant Association between November and December of 2020. Per the NRA, the following were the top items sold by full-service casual, family and fine-dining restaurants:

  • Burgers
  • Seafood
  • Pizza
  • Steak
  • Chicken (excluding chicken wings)
  • Breakfast items
  • Pasta
  • Mexican food
  • Sandwiches, subs and wraps
  • Chicken wings

According to the NRA, the items below were the most popular for limited-service restaurants (fast casual, quick-service, coffee and snack):

  • Sandwiches, subs and wraps
  • Pizza
  • Burgers
  • Chicken (excluding chicken wings)
  • Ice cream, cookies and cakes
  • Baked goods
  • Breakfast items
  • Mexican food
  • BBQ items
  • Seafood

For 2021, DoorDash predicted the following items to see a lift:

  • Sausage, egg and cheese on a biscuit
  • Create your own omelettes
  • Carrot cake
  • Cinnamon roll
  • Caramel latte
  • Chocolate brownies
  • Black coffee
  • Donuts
  • Blueberry muffin
  • Biscuits

DoorDash revealed that Mexican, Chinese and Tex-Mex were the top cuisines ordered via the platform. The company also predicted five cuisines would be popular in 2021:

  • Taiwanese
  • French
  • Filipino
  • Australian
  • Moroccan

When it comes to 2021, multiple sources have named vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, and health and wellness items as the foods to watch. Even this early into the year it’s not exactly a controversial statement to say that all of those categories are going to perform well in 2021.

According to DoorDash, nearly half of Americans (47 percent) plan to consume more plant-based items. Whether it’s truly healthier than its traditional counterparts, plant-based is perceived that way. In total, per DoorDash, 72 percent of Americans plan to make a concerted effort to eat healthier in 2021. This is likely due to an increased interest in boosting immune systems due to Covid-19.

Put another way, operators will likely struggle if they don’t add vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based foods to their streamlined menus, another trend expected to continue through 2021.

Predictions from the Specialty Food Association in particular caught our attention. For 2021, the association has predicted spices and herbs native to West Africa (Senegal, for example) will be in demand. Scandinavian and Cambodian flavors are also expected to perform well, as are Latin American and Southeast Asian items.

Due to interest in tahini sauce and black sesame, the SFA expects halva, which is a Middle Eastern confection, to get plenty of attention. The SFA and Datassential both named fermented honey as an item to watch in 2021.

Along with vegan and plant-based items, creative meal kits are expected to perform well. Restaurants and bars will continue to face restrictions and indoor dining bans over the course of at least the next few months. Creative meal kits will get the attention of customers who have grown tired of preparing the same meals over and over.

Whether an operator chooses to stick with their current menu or embrace one or more food trends, they should look into first-party or last-mile delivery. It’s imperative that operators own their guest journey and marketing efforts.

For more information about first-party and last-mile delivery, please listen to Bar Hacks episode 13 with “Rev” Ciancio, an advocate of keeping delivery and data in-house.

Image: Robert Anasch on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Delivery and Takeout Food Trends for 2021: Canada

Delivery and Takeout Food Trends for 2021: Canada

by David Klemt

Patrons, analysts and experts have spoken: delivery and takeout will remain standards in the new era of hospitality.

Analysts and experts have spoken with data, and consumers have spoken with their dollars.

But there’s another consequential voice that matters when it comes to delivery: that of the operator.

There’s no denying that the operator is shoved aside in the third-party delivery relationship. At the very least, that’s the overwhelming perception. Once an operator signs on with such a service, their guest data becomes the delivery company’s data.

Whatever company owns the data owns the guest, their journey and engagement, and the targeted marketing efforts. That means a restaurant or bar’s guests receive offers and promotions for their competitors.

In short, third-party delivery platforms disrupt the guest journey.

However, there are some data the third-party delivery services do share. As we saw midway through 2020, for example, Uber Eats and Grubhub released the top orders and other useful information in publicly available reports. Some of the services also release end-of-year or year-in-review reports, as SkipTheDishes did for Canada.

Most of these reports are laser-focused on the United States. That’s logical given the number of bars, restaurants and other hospitality businesses to which Grubhub, Uber Eats, Postmates, Instacart, Seamless and other services have access.

SkipTheDishes, for the Americans reading this, is the Grubhub of Canada. For the Canadians reading, below are SkipTheDishes’ data regarding top orders, cuisine, and demographics in 2020:

  • Top Cuisines: Chinese, Italian, American/Canadian
  • Top Orders (General): Asian dishes, pizza, burgers
  • Top Orders by Item: Chicken sandwiches (also the top item in 2020 in the US), burgers, and French fries (mid-year data)
  • Top Vegan Provinces: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia
  • Top Organic Provinces: British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta
  • Top Gluten-free Provinces: Manitoba, Alberta, The Maritimes
  • Top Dairy-free Provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, The Maritimes
  • Top Kosher Provinces: Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan
  • Top Dayparts: 5:00 PM was the most popular order time, and late afternoon (3:00-4:00 PM) and weekdays saw lifts. Late-night ordering (9:00 PM and beyond) slowed. (Mid-year data.)
  • Top Pre-order Daypart: 5:00 PM. More Canadians got into the habit of pre-ordering their dinners. (Mid-year data.)
  • Fastest-growing Segment by Age Group: 65+
  • Most Revealing Datum: 81% of customers ordered from restaurants they’d never visited in person.

That was last year. What’s in store for Canada this year? A scan of a few sources—Food Network Canada, Restaurants Canada, and Chatelaine—offers some valuable insights.

Plant-based items and foods recognized for boosting a person’s immune system are expected to be popular. The pandemic has given many consumers a reason to reevaluate what they’re putting into their bodies. All three sources predict people will be interested in and order plant-based foods and focus on health and wellness.

Both Food Network Canada and Chatelaine predicted chickpeas—an inexpensive, versatile and plant-based protein source—will be among the top food items sought out by restaurant guests (in-person) and customers (takeout, delivery). Most operators should be able to adapt and get creative to add chickpea-based items to their menus. The two sources also predicted that snacking will replace meals (at least occasionally), so snackable items and sides may take off this year.

Food Network Canada pointed to sauerkraut as an example of a health and wellness food item that may see a boost in popularity and demand due to its probiotic and gut health properties. The source also predicted that coffee and coffee-based F&B items will get a lift in 2021.

Restaurants Canada predicted that comfort food, popular throughout 2020, will remain in high demand. However, 2021 will bring in an interest in elevated riffs on comfort food classics. Citing specific examples, Restaurants Canada suggested Pad Thai French fries and Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese. The Canadian food industry association predicted that interest in and support of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) cuisine, flavors and businesses will continue through 2021.

All three sources listed plant jerky as food item to watch in 2021.

What else should be in store for this year? Operators embracing first-party or so-called “last-mile” delivery to grab their share of the orders of this year’s trendy food items. Platforms such as Lunchbox, Olo, ChowNow can provide operators with the ability to own delivery and therefore the entire guest journey in the new era of hospitality. It’s likely an operator’s current POS can be updated to “unlock” in-house delivery, which would then need to be supported by a delivery menu, delivery supplies, and staff training.

For more information about first-party and last-mile delivery, please listen to Bar Hacks episode 13 with “Rev” Ciancio, an advocate of keeping delivery and data in-house.

Image: Norma Mortenson from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The 2021 Food Trends to Know for Veganuary

The 2021 Food Trends to Know for Veganuary

by David Klemt

Strange or even inappropriate as it may seem, it’s time to review food trend data and predictions because we’re hurtling toward 2021.

January also plays host to two monthlong traditions that impact F&B operations: Dry January and Veganuary. For this post, we’re focusing on the latter.

Veganuary may not have claimed “tradition” status just yet, to be honest, but it appears to be well on its way. The movement began in the United Kingdom in 2014 as a social and eco-friendly campaign intended to make the transition to adopting a vegan diet as easy as possible.

The movement has been growing each year with 2018 through 2020 seeing the biggest increases in participation. In 2017, a reported 50,000 people had signed up for Veganuary. That number jumped to a reported 170,000 in 2018; 250,000 in 2019; and 400,000 in 2020. According to the Veganuary campaign, 2020’s participation represented more than one million animal lives and the CO2 equivalent of 450,000 flights.

“Research shows that health is a significant driver for so many people going vegan, especially American consumers. But the reasons to test this lifestyle and decrease consumption of animal-based products are countless, from improving health, to reducing animal suffering, and helping to preserve the planet,” said Veganuary CEO Simon Winch in 2018. “Research shows that not only are there more people curious about going vegan, but more people are sticking with the lifestyle after taking part in Veganuary, which is great news! We are thrilled with the enthusiasm and growing response from Americans taking the pledge and will continue to do our part in making it as easy as possible to try vegan, for as many people as possible.”

Participants sign up for free and are challenged to stick to a vegan diet for the entirety of January. While Covid-19 vaccines have been approved, they’re not widely available to the general public. Many markets are still restricted to outdoor dining, delivery and pickup. It’s important that operators stay current with food and consumer behavior trends to remain top of mind and continue generating revenue.

We reviewed multiple sources to find common vegan-friendly food trends for operators to leverage when programming their 2021 menus.

Plant-based (Datassential, Delish)

One big difference between plant-based and vegan is that the latter’s focus on moral and ethical reasons for choosing the diet. Regardless, plant-based is expected to grow in popularity and therefore demand across the globe.

Tofu (Food & Wine, Whole Foods Market)

The great thing about tofu, a sentence I never thought I’d type, is that the back of house can get as creative as they want with it. Tofu “scrambles” (no eggs, just peppers, onions and sweet potato cubes), fishless tacos (breaded and brined tofu), and spaghetti with tofu riffs elevate this ingredient.

Mushrooms (Food & Wine, Whole Foods Market)

Portobello mushrooms, for example, are more than capable of starring in an array of dishes, replacing animal proteins rather easily. There’s also the fact that mushrooms are being used to make to-go packaging, giving eco-minded guests another reason to support a particular restaurant.

Chickpeas (Whole Foods Market, Martha

“You can chickpea anything,” says Whole Foods Market. In fact, they claim it’s the cauliflower, taking several forms, like pasta and flour.

Hyper-local (Food & Wine,, The New York Times)

The push for restaurants to source ingredients locally and highlight them on their menus isn’t expected to slow. These publications and more are recognizing supporting local as a “trend” (it’s more a movement at this point) that will get stronger in 2021.

Meal kits (Food & Wine, Delish,, The New York Times)

These, as several publications have stated, are here to stay. Consumers got used to these when subscription services exploded in popularity. Some restaurants offered them pre-pandemic as a response to the meal-kit subscription craze, and they’ve become more prevalent since Covid-19 ripped apart the world. They’re a hit with consumers, so operators should consider vegan-friendly meal kits during Veganuary.

Home cooking classes (Datassential, Whole Foods Market, Delish)

Many of us probably feel like our entire lives are one big Zoom meeting at this point. Well, that’s not expected to change any time soon. A great way to connect with guests staying at home is to host cooking classes—with a focus on vegan cooking in January—and follow up with curated meal kits.

Datassential also identified baby carrots and ramen among their 2021 food trend predictions (and both are vegan-friendly), and carob, chicory root, “future” produce (specialty produce varities), and honeysuckle as flavor trends to follow next year.

Two trends that are not considered vegan? Avocados and fermented honey because the reliance on bees to produce and cultivate both are considered “exploitation” by vegans. Remember the moral and ethical difference between vegan and plant-based from above? There you go.

Image: Anh Nguyen on Unsplash