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Restaurant-Association-Culinary-Forecast-2023.jpg FB Society
Experiences, such as those at the communal tables at FB Society's Sixty Vines concept, are among the top 10 trends for 2023 cited by the National Restaurant Association.

Restaurant group cites experience-seeking as a top 2023 trend

Customers want to reclaim a sense of community as pandemic eases, association forecast notes

Customers are eager to return to restaurants and reclaim a sense of community in 2023, the National Restaurant Association said in its annual “What’s Hot Culinary Forecast.”

The Washington, D.C.-based group released its forecast Wednesday, offering a detailed look at the topics, trends and products expected to drive restaurant menus in the coming year.

“The What’s Hot forecast for 2023 is an evolutionary reflection of both pandemic trends and current economic pressures,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research for the Association, in a statement.

“Inflation is shifting consumer spending habits, and while there is a heightened appetite for restaurant experiences and connection, diners are laser-focused on finding value,” Riehle noted. “The challenge is how to fuse consumer desires for the new and trendy with their expectations for price paid.”

The National Restaurant Association, along with the American Culinary Federation and Technomic, in October surveyed more than 500 professional chefs and association members with chef titles to produce the forecast.

About 70% of respondents noted a customer desire to gather on-premises despite the continued popularity of to-go and delivery meals and snacks in recent years.

The association’s top 10 hot trends for 2023 were:

  • Experiences/local culture and community
  • Fried chicken sandwiches and chicken sandwiches (i.e., spicy and sweet-heat fusion flavor, etc.)
  • Charcuterie boards
  • Comfort fare
  • Flatbread sandwiches/healthier wraps
  • Menu streamlining
  • Sriracha variations
  • Globally inspired salads
  • Zero waste/sustainability/upcycled foods
  • Southeast Asian cuisines (Vietnamese, Singaporean, Philippine, etc.)

The association said restaurant dining was proving resilient amid inflationary pressures, and customers were showing a desire to connect over shared meals that couldn’t easily be replicated in their homes.

“Trending global flavors including Southeast Asian and Caribbean cuisines and comfort foods with a twist will draw consumers; while charcuterie boards demonstrate the type of satisfying, shared dining experience that more guests are expected to seek out in 2023,” the association said.

Another impact on the industry is the evolution of remote work, which is disrupting the typical dayparts and effectively dissolving traditional meal and work times, the association said.

“With the convenience of accessing any kind of meal or snack through delivery, curbside pickup, counter pickup and drive-thru, any time of day or night, food ordering presents a unique opportunity to entice customers,” the association said. “Handheld menu options, such as French toast sticks, chicken and waffle sandwiches and more, will serve to satisfy growing customer demand for convenience around the clock.”

Michelle Korsmo, the NRA’s president and CEO, said: “Understanding changing consumer desires is essential to the success of restaurants in every community across the country.”

The full “What’s Hot 2023 Culinary Forecast,” produced with support from Nestlé Professional, can be downloaded from the association’s website.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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