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The NRA’s 2023 Culinary Trend Forecast

The National Restaurant Association’s 2023 Culinary Trend Forecast

by David Klemt

Cheesy chicken sandwich on paper wrapper

Ahead of the beginning of a new year, the National Restaurant Association unveils their culinary trend predictions for 2023.

The report is the result of a collaboration between the NRA, Technomic, and the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

For those unfamiliar, Technomic is at the forefront of foodservice trend tracking, industry research, and analysis. Likewise, the ACF is a premier industry organization. Tracing its founding to 1929, the ACF promotes “the professional image of American chefs worldwide through education of culinarians at all levels.”

To predict what will be “hot” next year, the NRA, Technomic, and ACF sent the 17th annual What’s Hot survey to thought leaders and chefs. In direct partnership with the Technomic Menu Research & Insights Division, the NRA predicted the top menu trends from 110 items spanning 11 categories.

Now, this isn’t a full dive into the report in its entirety. Rather, we strongly encourage our readers to download a copy of What’s Hot 2023 Culinary Forecast for themselves and their teams.

What readers will find below are the top 10 trends for 2023. Additionally, we’ll share the top three macro trends for next year, as forecast by the NRA and their partners.

More than Food

Somewhat surprisingly, the NRA’s top-ten list of culinary trends isn’t just a list of food items. Instead, this forecast paints a picture of where restaurants are heading in 2023.

While there are some specific cuisine predictions, the NRA’s top culinary predictions show us, in part, how consumers want to experience the restaurants they visit.

  1. Southeast Asian cuisines (examples: Vietnamese, Singaporean)
  2. Zero waste/Sustainability/Upcycled foods
  3. Globally inspired salads
  4. Sriracha variations
  5. Menu streamlining
  6. Flatbread sandwiches/Healthier wraps
  7. Comfort fare
  8. Charcuterie boards
  9. Fried chicken sandwiches and Chicken sandwiches “3.0” (example: fusion of flavors)
  10. Experiences/Local culture and community

As we can see, operators and consumers expect tighter, more concept-specific menus. Also, comfort foods; shareable (and “Instagrammable”) items like charcuterie boards; and items that show local and global influences may be hot in 2023.

One can consider, then, streamlining their menu to include their top sellers along with local and/or global flavors authentic to their brand.

Below, readers will see that three of the trends above make up the NRA’s top-three 2023 macro trends:

  1. Menu streamlining
  2. Comfort fare
  3. Experiences/Local culture and community

Operator and Consumer Behavioral Shifts

Looking at the macro trends, it’s reasonable to believe the past few years will influence 2023 heavily.

Operators are dealing with inflation, higher costs for everything, labor shortages. Further, according to Datassential, more than a third of American operators are experiencing low traffic and sales levels.

We can expect these issues to follow us into 2023, at least for Q1 and Q2. Therefore, the NRA’s macro trends forecast makes sense. Streamlining menus often leads to streamlining the back and front of house. In turn, doing so can lower costs and boost staff retention.

On the consumer side, it appears comfort foods, chicken sandwiches, and experiences are driving visits and online orders. These are, as we all know, behavioral shifts we can trace back to the start of the pandemic.

We always suggest proceeding with caution, logic, and data when considering embracing trends. Missing out on trends can be just as costly as latching onto a trend too late.

That said, the macro trends certainly seem reasonable. Only time will tell, but the NRA’s 2023 forecast certainly contains several items operators and their teams should give serious consideration.

Image: Arabi Ishaque on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What’s Up with Meat, Poultry and Seafood?

What’s Up with Meat, Poultry and Seafood?

by David Klemt

Barbecue food plate on wooden table

We know how plant proteins are performing with consumers but what do we know about how meat, poultry, and seafood are doing?

Well, because of a recent report from Datassential, we know many consumers are “meat-limiters.” And research from the World Resources Institute shows that plant-based performance is nuanced.

Interestingly, the performance of animal proteins on-premise appears to be following a beverage trend: Moderation. According to Datassential, more consumers are reducing their consumption of meat and poultry than increasing it in comparison with 2021.

So, meat-limiters may be indicative of the future of meat consumption.

Consumer Shifts

As the name implies, meat-limiters are limiting or otherwise reducing their consumption of animal proteins. Importantly, it doesn’t appear that a significant percentage of consumers are eliminating animal proteins from their diets.

Rather, many people are simply increasing the amount of plant-based items they’re eating. However, that increase is more aspirational than real in some cases.

Per Datassential’s survey of 1,500 consumers in the US, just over 70 percent of people are meat eaters. In contrast, nearly 25 percent are “flexitarian.” Just two percent are vegan or pescatarian, and only three percent are vegetarian.

So, the vast majority of Americans are still consuming meat, poultry, and seafood. We just now have reason to believe that more consumers may be leaning toward a flexitarian diet.

A bit over a quarter of consumers consume meat every day. Still, many people aspire to eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, per Datassential.

However, there are more pescatarians, vegans, and vegetarians among Gen Z than the overall population. According to Datassential, this could indicate a shift away from animal proteins in the future.

Meat Performance is Nuanced

Just like plant-based performance, meat performance is nuanced. There are many factors at play.

Shifts in what consumers value are driving changes to the performance of proteins. Health, sustainability, the climate, taste, and affordability have an effect on all proteins, animal and plant.

Undeniably, inflation and shaken consumer confidence are impacting protein performance. Everything, it seems, is more expensive at the moment. Generally speaking, animal proteins are pricier than plant-based items.

It makes sense, then, that some consumers are reducing their intake of animal proteins and filling that void with fruits, veggies, and legumes.

Of particular note are shifts in daily and weekly consumption of animal proteins in 2022. Meat consumption once or more per week—beef, lamb, pork, veal—is up three percent. However, there’s a ten-percent increase in consumers eating poultry once or more per week.

Interestingly, daily poultry consumption is down seven percent in comparison with 2021. Likewise, daily consumption of seafood is also down seven percent, and fewer people are consuming it less than once per week.

Plant-based is Down

Despite what some would think, meat-limiters don’t appear to be driving up plant proteins significantly.

In fact, according to Datassential, the daily consumption of plant-based proteins is down. Per the research firm, seitan, tempeh, and tofu are the experiencing the greatest drop in daily consumption.

The fact is that across generations, more consumers eat animal proteins on a daily basis than their plant-based counterparts. Gen Z, per Datassential, consumes more animal proteins on a daily basis than other generations.

So, how does it make sense that people are reducing their meat intake but plant-based isn’t seeing a sizable jump in consumption?

In part, the answer is the growing popularity of plant-forward dishes. These are items, like bowls, that offer a small amount of meat, poultry, seafood or dairy. The majority of these menu items consists of plants but are not free of animal proteins completely.

The path forward may indeed be a plant-forward menu. Of course, this is heavily reliant on a specific concept or brand. Still, it’s likely many restaurants can do well offering mixed dishes, those heavier on plant proteins than animal proteins.

Image: Peter Pham on Unsplash

Note: This article is based on information from Datassential’s “2022 Plant-Forward Opportunity” report. To access a number of free reports, sign up with Datassential today.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Today’s the Day: Canada Opens Border

Today’s the Day: Canada Opens Border

by David Klemt

Canadian Border Services Agency sign on chainlink fence

The big day is here and Canada is opening their border to the USA.

Today, Americans and permanent residents can enter the country for “discretionary,” a.k.a. non-essential, travel.

Of course, the border is only open to travelers who can prove their vaccination status (full series).

Quarantine Lifted

As many Canadians are well aware, quarantining was mandatory for people traveling into Canada up until today.

Asymptomatic travelers, with very specific exemptions, were required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. The mandatory quarantine included a three-night stay at a hotel authorized by the Canadian government.

Oh, and the traveler had to cover the cost of the mandatory hotel stay.

However, that wasn’t all that was required. Travelers had to create and submit a quarantine plan. Foreign national who failed to submit a plan deemed suitable faced the risk of border agents turning them away.

Of course, the mandatory quarantine dissuaded Canadians from traveling across the border for essential travel. After all, Canadians weren’t exempt from hotel quarantine.


Now, Americans or permanent residents residing in America aren’t receiving unfettered access to the border. Indeed, there are requirements that must be met for anyone hoping to cross into Canada from the US.

Per the Government of Canada website, in its entirety for clarity:

“Beginning on August 9th, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. EDTfully vaccinated United States (U.S.) citizens and permanent residents will be eligible to enter Canada for discretionary (non-essential) reasons, such as tourism, however these individuals must:

  1. be fully vaccinated: to be considered fully vaccinated, a traveller must have received the full series of a vaccine—or combination of vaccines—accepted by the Government of Canada at least 14 days prior to entering Canada. Currently, those vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
  2. be residing in and travelling from the U.S.;
  3. have a valid pre-arrival COVID-19 molecular test result taken in the U.S. (antigen tests are not accepted);
  4. be asymptomatic;
  5. submit their mandatory information via ArriveCAN, including proof of vaccination in English or French;
  6. be admissible under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and,
  7. take a test on arrival, if required.”

So, if you or someone you know is planning to travel to Canada from America, make sure you follow the requirements precisely.

Operators, Be Ready

So far, news of increasing infection and hospitalization rates aren’t impacting Canada’s decision; the border is open as of today. Neither New York City’s vaccine mandate nor an increasing amount of counties and corporations implementing mask and vaccine mandates are deterring Canada.

Additionally, it doesn’t appear as though the Canadian government plans to implement other travel requirements (so far).

Canadian restaurant, bar, hotel, and entertainment venue operators need to be ready for an influx of guests. This is particularly true for operators in large metropolitan areas and well-known tourist destinations.

Pent-up demand for travel, experiences, reunions, weddings, and just escape should skyrocket with the Canada-US border reopening.

Also, should things go well, operators need to prepare for even more travels next month. While not written in stone, Canada plans to open the country’s borders to other countries on September 7.

Interestingly, this is also excellent news for those waiting to open a restaurant or bar. Plans to reopen borders should prove to be a boon for the Canadian economy. So, now’s the time to move forward.

Canadian operators must be vigilant about monitoring the border situation. Fresh opportunities arrive on your doorstep starting today.

Image: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Books to Read this Month: August

5 Books to Read this Month: August

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

This month’s fun and informative book selections will help you develop next-level culinary, beverage and leadership skills.

To review last month’s book recommendations, click here.

Let’s dive in!

Something & Tonic: A History of the World’s Most Iconic Mixer

Author and bartender Nick Kokonas takes readers on a historical, global journey that focuses on the history of tonic. This informative book also contains tips, tricks, and 60 original cocktail recipes. Click here to purchase Something & Tonic now.

America Walks into a Bar

Do you have a passion for this business? Do you actually love bars and the rich history of our industry? Then you need to read Christine Sismondo’s America Walks into a Bar, equal parts adventure, entertainment and history.

Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End

I could try to sum up Burn the Ice for you, but Danny Meyer seems to have captured the essence of this Kevin Alexander’s book in one word: “Inspiring.”

The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World

When we come across a great bar, restaurant or hotel, we never encounter strangers. Instead, we meet friends we never knew we had. In The Power of Strangers, author Joe Keohane addresses the importance of getting over the fear of engaging with strangers and why, particularly in these divisive times, we need “strangers” more than ever in our lives.

Hacking the New Normal: Hitting the Reset Button on the Hospitality Industry

The world around us has changed, as has the food & beverage industry and the hospitality industry as a whole. But will some ways of life change for the better? Will restaurants, bars, and hotels come out of the pandemic even stronger? In Hacking the New Normal, author and president of KRG Hospitality Doug Radkey addresses the need to hit the reset button on the hospitality industry for its long-term survival.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

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Mask Mandates, Recommendations Return

Mask Mandates, Recommendations Return

by David Klemt

Downtown Los Angeles, California

Pointing to vaccination hesitation, vaccination refusal, and rises in Covid-19 cases, some cities are mandating masks indoors.

Importantly, mandates and recommendations are coming down irrespective of vaccination status.

Of course, many people are unhappy about this news. Much of the backlash includes the claim that a return to masks proves vaccines don’t work.

However, others point to variants—in particular, Delta—spreading via the unvaccinated and unmasked.

Unfortunately, continuing divisiveness means hospitality and other frontline workers are again at risk for hostile confrontations.

Los Angeles County, California

If you’re an operator in Los Angeles County, masks indoors aren’t just a recommendation. An indoor mask mandate went into effect on Saturday, July 17.

Just a month prior, embattled Governor Gavin Newsom proudly announced California’s unrestricted reopening.

Now, the more cynical among us see Gov. Newsom’s June reopening as a bid to stave off recall efforts. However, recall ballots will go out to Californians next month.

Per reporting, California’s Covid-19 infection rate is close to tripling. Los Angeles County health officials say the indoor mask mandate comes out of an overabundance of caution.

On a different note, health officials expect the state’s vaccination rate to effectively combat a spike in infection rates. The current rate isn’t expected to match or surpass those of prior peaks in the state.

As far as mandate details, it’s quite simple: Masks are required for everyone indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.

According to reports, an additional ten California counties are recommending masks indoors. No word yet on if other counties—or the state as a whole—will announce mask mandates. Nor is there an end date for LA County’s current mandate.

Southern Nevada

While not a mandate, the Southern Nevada Health District is recommending people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors.

Unsurprisingly, Las Vegas is experiencing an influx of visitors. With vaccination rates on the decline and infection rates on the rise, health officials are concerned.

More than 2.9 million visitors flocked to Las Vegas in May. Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas, has a population of over two million.

Of course, it’s important to remember that, for now, wearing masks indoors is a recommendation. However, some resorts and casinos—Westgate and the Venetian among them—now require their employees to wear face masks.

So far, neither Las Vegas, Clark County or Nevada have implemented a mandate. Of course, that could change and a mandate may be in the wings.

Orange County, Florida

Much of the news of returning mask mandates and recommendations focuses on Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

In fact, some critics are attacking Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, accusing him of blindly following Gov. Newsom.

Interestingly, though, is that a mayor in Florida is also recommending face masks.

Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County recommends wearing masks indoors, vaccination status notwithstanding. The phrasing of the mayor’s announcement refers to the suggestion as an “official recommendation.” However, no mandate is in place currently.

Frontline Risks

Clearly, mask mandates and even recommendations are going to anger some of the population.

Unfortunately, hospitality workers (and those in other public-facing industries) are once again at risk of confrontations. Even without mandates, some businesses that choose to require masks experience hostility.

The last thing America needs is more divisiveness, anger, and potential for confrontations.

Millions of hospitality professionals have left the industry for good. One factor leading to those losses has been concern for safety due to people angry over mask and vaccine requirements.

Obviously, operators must do whatever’s in their power to ensure the safety of their team members and guests. Leadership must not only convey their support for their employees, they must stand behind that messaging with their actions.

In cities where masks mandates and recommendations return, operators need to focus on safety as much as employee retention. Indeed, the former aids the latter, which aids recruiting and hiring.

Image: Daniel Lee on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Tip Elimination is Back on the Table

Tip Elimination is Back on the Table

by David Klemt

Person holding up cash

Several operators across the country feel that as we emerge from pandemic life, now is the time to once again try eliminating tips.

Back in 2015, Danny Meyer made a decision about tips in his restaurants that sent shockwaves through the industry. Over the course of five years, Union Square Hospitality Group (Meyer’s group) implemented a hospitality included policy to eliminate tipping.

To be sure, it wasn’t only Meyer’s restaurants that examined and put no-tipping policies in place. However, Union Square was certainly among the highest-profile operators to try it out.

Good Intentions

Per the CEO of Union Square and founder of Shake Shack, attempting to do away with tipping was about promoting equity in the hospitality.

Tipping has been linked to the propagation of sexism, racism, harassment, and exploitation.

Meyer has also said that he believes it leads to wage instability, and studies have shown it contributes to outright wage theft. And, as anyone who has worked in a restaurant knows, tipping can create a gap—and therefore tension, among other issues—between the front of house and back.

However, it has proven difficult to for no-tipping policies to take hold. This is in part because tipping is so ingrained in American society. And, of course, there’s also the issue of increasing menu prices; some people are fine with tipping but not with paying more for menu items.

Guests aren’t the only individuals who have pushed back against eliminating tips. Unsurprisingly, the very people Meyers and other operators are trying to help have rejected no-tipping policies.

Many servers and other FoH staff have made it clear that they’re not interested in working for an operator who eliminates tips.

Reinstatement of Tipping

Around eleven months ago, Meyer announced he would reverse course on his hospitality included policy. According to reporting, Meyer had done so not because of pushback against increased menu prices (about 15 to 20 percent to cover increased labor costs).

Rather, the five-year experiment never worked exactly as Meyer and Union Square had hoped. As he told Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart during a Washington Post Live conversation back in March of this year, the policy wasn’t sustainable.

“It worked to a degree, but it was not sustainable, and the biggest reason it wasn’t sustainable was we could never quite do all the things we wanted to do for our team members like make sure that a formerly tipped employee could make as much as she made when she was tipped, make sure that we had a 401(k) plan, make sure we had a really, really generous family leave policy,” Meyer told Capehart.

And then there was the impact of the pandemic. Meyer finally pulled the plug on his no-tipping policy after New York allowed restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining a year ago. Reportedly, Meyer didn’t see how he could stand in the way of his staff making additional money.

2021 Experiment

Interestingly, several news outlets are reporting that operators around the country are at least considering doing away with tips this summer.

Again, this is at least in part due to the pandemic. Restaurateurs who have wanted to implement policies similar to Meyers’ Hospitality Included see this year as the time to try.

We still don’t know exactly what post-pandemic life will be. However, a hospitality industry reset is certainly coming—and it’s absolutely overdue.

So, it does make sense that as operators can change guest and staff perception of tipping and living wages as we all emerge from pandemic life and face a new world.

For example, the Chicago Tribune has reported that Big Jones, owned and operated by Paul Fehribach, has implemented service fees so he can cover offer servers between $18 and $25 per hour. A 20-percent fee for in-person dining or placing an order with a live person, and a 10-percent fee attached to online orders go to Big Jones payroll.

While there has been some pushback, the Chicago Tribune reports that Fehriback says Big Jones reactions are trending toward the positive.

It’s possible that tip elimination simply doesn’t work for some restaurant categories. As an example, those policies may work out in the casual dining space but not fine dining. Time will tell if it works at all.

Image: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash