Lou Trope, President, LJ Trope & Co. LLC
The industry is moving faster than ever and conversion rate from a simple fad to a full blown trend is astonishing. What is happening at cutting edge place in Brooklyn or Portland is going mainstream within 18 months.
However, the most important thing to understand about trends is that you need not run blindly after every little thing trying to stay up with the trend cycle. The key is to stay very close to what is happening in the industry, particularly your segment of the industry. It is essential to be a student of the game. Keep learning, experiencing and thinking everyday and carefully pick and choose what ideas can apply to your restaurant, if any. Monitor where the trends are arising from, who their customer is and if there is any relevancy to the guest you are or wish to attract in your restaurant to be ahead of any shift in buying patterns or interest.
So here are a few things to keep an eye on for 2017. Some of these may be early in the cycle but its important to understand the potential impact it may have in the future.
Dim sum, Shu Mai, Mandu, Bao, Gyoza. Does not matter the origin but dumplings pan fried or steamed will easily become a main stay in the emerging bar food scene. Just as ramen has gone mainstream and chefs are creating some exceptions new versions of the traditional dish so will be the path of dumplings. The Dim Sum brunch is becoming more and more popular in urban locations, not just in traditional restaurants like Yank Sing in San Francisco but also in more contemporary like the Sarsparilla Club in Miami. Also check out Surbia (Los Angeles), Mei Mei (Boston), Momofuku Ssam (NYC) and Parachute (Chicago) for some interesting versions.
Who doesn’t like fried rice. Nothing better for some late night eats. Now just consider with the addition of pork belly, chorizo, speck and using grains like faro, brown rice, quinoa or wheat berry. The combinations are endless and when used in collaboration with the right protein from a simple soft poached egg to Kobe beef. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or late night this dish has relevant application. Places like Departure Lounge (Denver) Crab, Chinese Sausage and XO Fried Rice and Shoyu (Boston) Kim Chee Fried Rice, Idouse Kimchi, Jasmine Rice and Sunny Egg are blazing the path.
The French Dip
It has been around for ages and still a favorite. Today chefs are thinking in new directions with the time tested classic using fresh roasted turkey, pork or lamb. Adding unique spreads to pop in a little acidity and complementing with the perfect cheese or wilted greens. The dipping sauce ranges from a classic jus to an updated version with a enhanced flavor from smoked chili peppers, spices or roast garlic. Again the combinations are endless. Henry (Phoenix) does Roast Turkey French Dip with Horseradish Aioli with Havarti on a garlic parmesan roll, ACORN (Denver) theirs with Roast Beef, Gruyere, Horseradish Cream and Smoked Au Jus while The Branch Line (Boston) does a rotisserie pork shoulder with smoked onions and chicken dripping au jus.
Australian Meat Pie, English Pies and Cornish Pasty shops are starting to pop up in many cities. These unique shops introduce a common meat pie with buttery flakey crusts and subtle delectable fillings from Chicken Curry to Beef and Tomato. Now these shops are adding their own unique fillings such as Chicken Vindaloo, Pork and Green Chili and Veggies in Peanut Curry. This again is a great addition to any bar menu and would expect to see them popping up on more and more Gastropub menus in the near future. Some notables include The Great Australian Bite(Denver), Cornish Pasty Co. (Boston) and can always mail order from Parkers.
Breakfast Grows Up
The age old thinking has been people are creatures of habit and eat the same thing every weekday and only change it up on the weekends. However, chefs are now starting to realize that breakfast is not only one of the most profitable meals of the day but can also give them the opportunity to unleash their creativity while providing, in some cases healthy options. Welcome the Acai Bowl. The healthfulness of the Acai berry combined with a fresh yogurt, housemate granola and fresh fruit can’t be beat. On the flip side chefs are also discovering the versatility of biscuits, pancakes, crepes, porridges and oatmeals that can all be enhanced to create a memorable guests experience. Check out some of these cutting edge breakfast locations that take it to another level like Plow (San Francisco), Juliet (Boston), Little Goat (Chicago) and Snooze (Denver)
Garden to Glass
Not to be out done by chefs, mixologists are becoming more and more active in shifting their menu by season. Always a student of the spirits they use, now many are becoming more engaged in the local bounty around them. Utilizing items like fresh tomato water, green apple, fennel, chillies, and fresh herbs to create different shrubs, syrups, juices or muddled to enhance unique seasonal cocktails. Although many fine establishments already update their offerings by the season unfortunately it is not in the norm. Expect more and more establishments to create seasonal libations taking advantage of their surroundings to create truly unique cocktail experience.
Time to be Bitter
The Negroni led the way now other mixologists are adding Italian bitter liqueurs such as Amaro, Campari and their slightly sweeter cousin Aperol to a wide range of inventive cocktails. Expect to see Amaro Lucano and Fernet Branca popping up as key ingredient being mixed with bourbons, rye and even some Japanese Whiskeys. Their bitter sweet herbaceous flavor brings out distinct nuances in these fine crafted cocktails. Check out Trick Dog (San Francisco) and Lion’s Share (San Diego) for some innovative cocktails.
Fortified wines are on the rise. Once only to be found in the back of a kitchen now Sherries are becoming front and center. Many cutting edge bars are not only showcasing a refined list but also including them in sophisticated cocktails. The complex flavor is a great bridge for spirits like aged rums, Mescals and Bourbons to create exquisite cocktails with deep and layered flavor profiles. Places like Mockingbird Hill (Washington DC), Moving Sidewalk (Houston), Pouring Ribbons(NYC) are leading the way in this area.
Has Rose Founds its Time?
We have heard it for years, this is the year for Rose. Has it finally been able to shake off its White Zinfandel association to get the respect it deserves? More and more producers are entering the market with crisp well balanced Rose wines that have the versatility for a great food wine or simple wine to enjoy with friends. Hopefully, this is the year for Rose wines.
Where is the Restaurant?
Chefs like David Chang have taken the first step in creating a virtual restaurant that only does delivery with ANDO. As chefs face increasing labor and rent costs will more defer to a virtual space? This innovative approach to dinning will be the first step in an ever changing industry in which operators and guests will redefine the expectations of dining.
OTHER FAVORITES THAT ARE HERE TO STAY:
Chef Driven Food Halls, Poke, Ramen, Hot Fried Chicken, Gourmet Donuts, Vegetables as Center of Plate, Sustainable Sourcing, and Regional Artisan Spirits