Five Popular Restaurant Menu Trends

Just like fashion, restaurant menus are subject to trends, some of which turn out to be short-lived fads. What's hot one day (bacon-covered everything) is soon replaced by the next big thing (fermented foods). But then there are the menu trends that maintain their staying power, year after year.

Examples of these would be the farm-to-table movement, emphasizing local, organic foods or the food truck movement, with street-food inspired cuisine. Often the key to writing an effective menu is balancing popular ingredients with classic dishes.

While some people want to try totally new and exotic dishes when they go out to eat, most are looking for something familiar, but with a unique twist.  Whether you are opening a new restaurant and or you're just looking for some menu inspiration, check out these five popular menu trends that demonstrate staying power.  

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Food Truck Inspired Cuisine

Food truck financing
A food truck business plan. Ben Kerckx via Pixabay

Modern food trucks run the gamut from gourmet cupcakes to sandwiches to ethnic fusion street food. If you’re thinking of opening a new restaurant, why not try a food truck? It requires far less start-up capital than a traditional sit-down restaurant and offers low overhead costs.

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Local Foods

Local foods are growing in popularity among restaurants. Richcd

The term 'local foods' often brings to mind fruits and vegetable. ​But today local foods go far beyond the garden and include everything from ice cream from a local dairy farm to artisan bacon, to farm stand cheese or locally produced maple syrup. A bonus of adding local foods to your menu is that it can increase the perceived value of a meal and make your restaurant stand out from the local competition.

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Healthy Menu Options

Five restaurant menu trends
Taken via Pixabay.

As more and more Americans are aware of the impact their diet has on their overall health, they are looking for restaurants to offer healthier menu selections. People don’t want to eat out less, but rather they want delicious and healthy dining options.

Healthy menu items are replacing all-you-can-eat buffets and supersized meals. Does going healthy mean restaurants should drop fried chicken fingers and jalapeno poppers off their appetizer menu? Not at all. But they could add low-fat, low-calorie options like lean cuts of beef, pork, poultry or fish, as well as smaller portion sizes (at smaller prices).

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Ethnic Fusion Inspired Menu Items

Ethnic fusion blends the best of two or more different styles of cuisine. HotBlack

The term 'ethnic' hit mainstream back in 2013, and since then, ethnic fusion - the blending of one or more ethnic cuisines into one, unique style, had become commonplace on menus all across the United States. For example, authentic Indian cuisine may be altered to appeal to western tastes, or a restaurant might build a menu item around two different types of cuisine, like an Asian inspired barbeque sauce. 

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Old Favorites

History of the Hamburger
Burgers are classic restaurant menu staple. Robert Owen-Wahl via Pixabay

Some foods have a timeless appeal - the burger, pizza, chocolate cake, and apple pie - to name a few. There is nothing wrong with adding some classic cuisine to a restaurant menu. While some customers are looking for an adventure when they go out to eat, others are looking for their old favorites. These classic restaurant menu items aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon, making them a perennial favorite of chefs everywhere.

Creating a unique menu that reflects a restaurants concept and personality can be daunting. In the quest to make sure there is something for everyone, menus can become scattered, unfocused and too large. Integrating some popular trends with old favorites is a good way to right-size your menu, while still offering enough choices to please a variety of tastes.