Environmental sustainability, sustainable seafood and food-waste reduction are among the top trends at restaurants in 2015, according to the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) annual What’s Hot culinary forecast.
The NRA, as it does every year, surveyed approximately 1,300 professional chefs – all members of the American Culinary Federation – to determine the industry’s hottest trends, and in 2015 sustainability is going to be center of the plate, the respondents said.
“We’ve been seeing strong trends toward sustainability in the food space for several years now and that’s going to continue to grow,” said Annika Stensson, the NRA's senior manager of research communications. “Chefs and restaurateurs are realizing the benefits and cost savings that conservation and food-waste reduction bring, in addition to doing what’s good for the environment.”
Among the survey’s top 20 trends, environmental sustainability came in third, sustainable seafood eighth and food waste reduction/management ninth. Food waste reduction and management also ranks as a new top trend for 2015, while environmental sustainability and sustainable seafood retained their status as steady, top food trends for the sixth consecutive year.
“Managing food waste is gaining momentum right now as wholesale food costs are, again, on the rise and a top challenge cited by operators,” Stensson said. “This year alone, food prices have risen more than 5 percent, so minimizing waste and maximizing ingredient yield is top of mind for the industry.”
Further, chefs and restaurateurs recognize more customers are incorporating sustainability practices into their daily lives and want to extend that into the food space as well ‑ particularly when dining out.
“Diners want to learn as much as possible about what they’re eating,” said Jeff Clark, director of the NRA’s Conserve sustainability program. “They want to know why something tastes a certain way, how a farmer planted it and how far it traveled to get to a restaurant. Chefs and operators know this and are embracing it. They understand their guests are seeking foods that are good for them, flavorful, and minimally impact the environment.”
Stensson added that NRA research found 55 percent of consumers are more likely to choose restaurants that serve food grown or raised in an environmentally friendly way. She said that number is expected to grow.
The survey also found 42 percent of respondents thought environmental sustainability would be the hottest menu trend 10 years from now.