2018 Food, dining, restaurant trends with staying power

Filipino inspiration, off-premise food popularity and plant-based food demand among trends with continued momentum

The food-trend prognostication season for the upcoming year is nearly upon us. But what about the trends reported previously that are seeing continued momentum this year, and that offer emerging opportunities for restaurant companies, currently?

Here are the trends that appeared in our “2018 Food and Dining Trends Report” earlier this year that have staying power:

Trend: Plant-based foods going mainstream


  • 83 percent of U.S. consumers are adding plant-based diets to improve health and nutrition; 62 percent are doing so for weight management
  • Plant-based foods to top $5B in sales in 2017, according to SPINS Data, led by plant-based milks and cheese alternatives (cpg, grocery channel)
  • Nearly one in three Americans are opting in to meat-free days, says Mintel
  • Growth of plant-based restaurant chains, including Beefsteak (Philadelphia, D.C., Maryland) and 8-unit by Chloe
  • Big food company acquisition of plant-based food manufacturers
  • Meat from lab-grown cells are gaining traction, investment


  • vegan cheese on burgers and pizzas
  • faux meat protein entrees on menus following success of Beyond Meat
  • steakhouses embrace veggie sides to eliminate vegetarian “no vote”
  • plant-based restaurant startups dig for gold (private equity investment)
  •  vegetarian frozen desserts (Brooklyn’s Van Leeuwen ice cream)
  • fast casuals to offer “first-rate vegetarian choices
  • more veggie-based restaurant chains popping up

Source: Baum+Whiteman, Plant-Based Food Association

Trend: Elevated chicken


  • heritage and free-range chicken (Crack Shack, San Diego)
  • buttermilk-brined chicken (Himitsu, D.C.)
  • chicken karaage and chicken teba (Daikaya, D.C.)
  • global chicken: Spicy Korean, Filipino adobo, Javanese curry chicken


  • Hainanese chicken rice with laska
  • indulgent chicken from the Izakaya and Japan
  • chicken raised with care
  • Southeast Asian Island chicken

Source: Packaged Facts Culinary Trends reporting, Technomic (Restaurant Business)

Adobong Kabuti at Bad Saint pop-up: Eatery Pulse
Adobong Kabuti at Bad Saint pop-up. Photo via Bad Saint.

Trend: Next-gen global – Filipino foods


  • immigration patterns; “spicy and acidically bracing, using vinegar or citrus juices … preferably calamansi; “ lumpia, sisig , longganisa, and kare-kare will be commonplace dishes
  • Filipino ube
  • Restaurants: Bad Saint and Purple Patch, D.C.; Purple Yam, Jeepney, Ugly Kitchen, New York, N.Y.


  • Filipino inspiration & adobe, Filipino bagoong
  • salty-sweet-sour flavor profiles, including tamis, asim, alat
  • Asian-Islander foods: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore
  • Southeast Asian, Open-air market foods

Sources: Baum+Whiteman, Technomic (Restaurant Business)

Trend: Next-gen global – Fast-casual Indian street food


  • chains fashionating Indian or build-your-own bowls
  • Tava Kitchen folding to “more-authentic” Curry Up Now
  • Biju’s Little Curry Shop (Denver)
  • Rasa Indian Grill (Washington, D.C.)


Colors of preparations and unfamiliarity of dishes and pronunciations yield to concepts in which the tandoori is front and center, not the steam tables

Sources: Baum+Whiteman

New England Lobster and Chowder Co: Eatery Pulse
Photo by New England Lobster and Chowder Co.

Trend: Local gives way to regional attribution


  • overuse of term “local” dilutes meaning, significance, say experts
  • regional global territories: “Southern Low Country, Ozarks, Appalachia, Cuba, India and the Middle East.”
  • regional American: New England Lobster, Nashville Chicken, Texas BBQ

Sources: Culinary Tides, Jason Dowd (Intercontinental Hotels Group), Fast Casual Executive Summit (Fast Casual)

Trend: Upscale Korean

From family-style to food truck to upscale; blending drink experience and ambience with Korean-style foods and heritage


  • Atoboy – Wide-ranging Korean small plates with California wines (New York)
  • Ms. Yoo – Korean-fried chicken feet (a Korean Gastropub, New York)
  • Atomox – “a kaiseki-style Korean tasting Format” (New York)


Expect to see Korean cuisine upscale, with strong design and beverage program aspects

Source: Baum+Whiteman

Snap Kitchen at Rittenhouse: Eatery Pulse
Snap Kitchen at Rittenhouse Square. Photo via Snap Kitchen.

Trend: Healthy and functional foods


  • plant-based proteins as healthy, concept-defining (Beefsteak, D.C., by Chloe)
  • feel-good foods, including clean label – preservative-free, antibiotic-free, removing artificial ingredients (Amy’s Kitchen in foodservice)
  • protein and Paleo diets; protein and lifestyle-oriented foods (True Food Kitchen, Snap Kitchen)
  • foods for a purpose (antioxidant in green tea, white tea; Tazo tea business, Bai drinks)
  • quick meals compete with snacks in restaurants, grocery stores

Sources: Culinary Tides (Fast casual), Fast Casual Executive Summit (Fast Casual)

Trend: Fast casuals fight for transactions


  • to compete with fast-food restaurants, fast casuals adding order and pay kiosks
  • fast casuals are adding drive-thrus (Chipotle, Starbucks)
  • to compete with sit-down restaurants, they’re offering upgraded design and lighting

They’re also

  • pushing urban delivery
  • building separate take-out pick-up counters
  • implementing second cook lines for delivery/take-out
  • offering quasi-table service “without tips”
  • using real plates
  • expanding beer, wine and cocktail programs


Fast-casual concepts further focused and built around the drink experience

Source: Baum+Whiteman

Trend: Off-premise food popularity


  • growth of online delivery popularity
  • mobile order-ahead services
  • on-demand meals for time-starved customers


  • revamped pick-up areas
  • separate drive-thru lanes for delivery drivers
  • “travel-friendly fare”
  • more heat-and-eat meals

Source: Technomic (Restaurant Business)

Download an expanded version of this list with the launch of Restaurant C-Suite Magazine, coming soon. Subscribe by navigating here.

This list was originally published in Eatery Pulse News, the leading foodservice industry publication for independent restaurant owners and managers operating in the Washington, D.C. market. To read more articles in our D.C. industry magazine, navigate to the latest issue: magazine.eaterypulse.tv

Photo credit: Rasa Indian Grill (featured), Bad Saint (inline), New England Lobster & Chowder Co. (inline), Snap Kitchen (inline)

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