MRG Makowsky Restaurant Group » 2016 Food Trends

2016 Trends article designed and written for client.


1. Spice: Flavor not Heat

Spice is no longer regulated to the hot category alone. “Consumers are looking for a complex depth of flavor to accompany their burn” according to Seth Makowsky of Makowsky Restaurant Group. Look for spices to influence everything from breakfast to cocktails:

Trend in action:

The condiment, Harissa, is a spicy and aromatic chili paste that is widely used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking.

Shichimi-Togarashi a delicious, multi-dimensional Japanese pepper will flavor more than sushi. It is a spicy blend of red chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, pepper, ginger, and seaweed.

Turmeric”, according to Baum & Whiteman, is the “spice-of-the-year”. It supposedly cures almost everything and is what gives curry its yellow color. Look for it to show up fresh in health food shops and juice bars, and powdered in supermarkets.

Other key big flavors!

Ghost Pepper from India,  Sambal from Southeast Asia,  Gochujang from Korea,  Sumac and Dukka from North Africa

2. The Poké & Oyster Craze

Hawaiian poké, pronounced POKE-AY, not POKE-EE, is chunks of fish, most often marinated in soy and sesame. Poké is everywhere in Hawaii. It is served in grocery stores, gas stations, surf shacks, and beyond. However, don’t confuse poké with sashimi, tartare, or ceviche. “Hawaiian food is becoming so popular and the consumer’s growing comfort with raw fish, it’s no wonder poké is exploding everywhere,” states Seth Makowsky. You can find poké in New York, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Charleston, Washington DC, and even landlocked Boulder, CO. #pololi #hawaii #poke

Oysters – With the growing awareness of the environment, sustainability and the millennials’ taste for the vintage, oyster are making a come huge back and are fueling an exciting resurgence of oyster bars. Countless chefs across the country are taking the humble oyster bar and turning it on it head. They are applying all the precepts of the modern culinary canon: a focus on seasonality, an eagerness to surprise, and a commitment to cooking styles that maintain regional identities. Expect the Millennial taste for oysters to grow even more in 2016 and years to come.

3. Eating with your Eyes

New on the food styling and photography horizon is food in motion. Just like our palate, our eyes become bored and tastes dulled with the same images over and over again. You know the ones… prefect poised plates of food methodically staged. Consumers are craving more to fill both their eyes and stomach. Instagram and Twitter are heating up with images that almost seem to sizzle right off the screen. Readers and viewers are begging for second helpings of images from the likes of @dennistheprescott of Instagram. “We like to think of it as #foodinmotion, vibrant images of fried egg yolks dripping and sauces being poured, the delicious final touches,” according to Seth Makowsky. “Adding in a bit of action could be what catapults food blogging to the next level.”

Trend in action hashtags: #foodstyling #Nomnom #comfortfood #foodporn #foodgasm #foodstagram #instafood #food #foodpics #foodie #instadaily #instagood #instalike #photooftheday #yummy #hungry #delicious #goodfood #goodlife

4. Retail Dining

Traditional brick and mortar retailers have been seeing a serious decline in foot traffic for some time. See our blog post,” The Food Hall Revolution: Welcome to your new neighborhood hangout”, for a history of the problem from the mall perspective. To combat the decline, a new trend is on the rise, retail dining. Seth Makowsky forecasts, “Look for malls, clothing stores, movie theaters, convenience stores, supermarkets to start providing restaurant experiences.”

Trend in action: Retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Lexus, Outdoor World, and Whole Foods are building revenue by luring shoppers with snacks and meals by opening in-store restaurants. The idea is to increase “dwell time” or how long the customer stays at your store. The longer the shopper stays the more they will buy per hour. However, the trend is a threat to conventionally located restaurants.

5. Healthy Alternatives

With the rise of food awareness, many restaurant customers are declaring war on artificial flavors, additives, GMOs, etc.  and Consumers are gravitating toward restaurants that advertise organic, and antibiotic- and GMO-free menus.  As this movement is becoming more mainstream, look for restaurant chains to clean their menus and offer healthier kid items. To support this demand, every brand from restaurants to grocery stores and convenience stores will make big investments in supply chain management in 2016. However, it will not be without some challenges.

If you haven’t already, check last month’s blog post about the growing awareness of food allergies and intolerances and how food and beverage industry pros are adapting.

Trend in action:

6. Origins: The Story Behind The Brand

Consumers are wanting to feel more connected to what they’re buying, and wanting to feel better about the companies they’re buying from. As a result, consumers are seeking to know the story behind a brand, its people, and its products. What can a business do? “It’s all about authenticity” according to Seth Makowsky. “Genuine stories will help to form relationships that give consumers the security that products are worthy of their investment and loyalty.” Infuse your brand identity around all your products, menu,  signage. Tell your story well and your audience will come.

7. The “Craft” Movement

Consumers, especially Millennials have gravitated toward hand-crafted, artisan food and beverages in the last few years and will continue to do so. This especially applies to craft beer, which is traditionally made in smaller batches and is independently owned. This makes craft beer feel more personal. Seasonal flavors and brands are also a huge draw and create a limited time environment that is highly effective when targeting the millennial demographic.

Trend in action:  Blue Moon, one of the most popular craft beers, is owned by brewing giant MillerCoors. 

8. Wages: No Tipping

The pressure for the $15-per-hour wage, health coverage, and eliminating tips is now on the menu. How will restaurants respond? Most will raise their wages to either comply with a new law or to compete for the best staff, which means menu prices are going up, everywhere from fast food to fine dining. Also, more brands will experiment with technology and automation (FOH and BOH) to do more with fewer employees.

9. New Ordering Technology

Millennials will continue to influence technology with their need for speed, ease, and convenience. As of result, the point of sale ordering technology will continue its  digital revolution. Look for ordering via online, text, and apps to get easier, faster, and more fun!

Trend in action:

Dominoes introduced text ordering with emojis, June 2015, Domino’s introduced text ordering Check the video below

Starbuck and Panera Bread launch their on online rapid order pick-up system in 2015.

10. Delivery 3.0

Technology is still at the forefront of the delivery revolution. Consumers are pushing for faster delivery times with more restaurant and food options. Delivery services like, GrubHub and Munchery are expanding beyond urban centers to suburbia. Other same day delivery services now include Uber, Wal-Mart, Publix, and Amazon. Check out our in-depth look at Delivery 2.0 for the key players and different delivery options in the works.

Perhaps the most exciting and anticipated development in delivery… drones. The first approved commercial drone delivery has already occurred earlier this year. Retail giants Amazon and Wal-Mart and smaller companies are currently working with the FAA to develop plans and regulations. Look for drone deliveries to start happening mid to late 2016. Here is a fun look at the new Amazon drone:


National Restaurant New: What’s Hot in 2016 Culinary Forecast

About Makowsky Restaurant Group
MRG is a boutique Food & Beverage advisory and management group. The MRG Team consists of top celebrity chefs, mixologists, designers, marketers, operators, and eaters each with regional and national recognition. We exist to drive optimal performance, create craveability, and delight guests in a way that drives loyalty 100% of the time.


Source: MRG Makowsky Restaurant Group » 2016 Food Trends