Revel Blog

Hottest Menu Trends of 2023

Coral Drake | June 30, 2023 |

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Hottest Menu Trends of 2023

This year has revealed some fascinating trends in menus. From increased interest in how our food is grown, to local and sustainable menu choices, to excitement around spicy foods and barbecue, restaurant menus are promising to show some substantial changes this year. 

We’ll let you in on the trends you can expect to see on menus this year. 

Here are the Hottest Menu Trends of 2023

1. Local Produce Goes Urban

Putting local produce on the menu has been among the most prevalent trends in menus for years, but 2023 is proving to be the year in which local produce heads to urban areas. No longer is this trend exclusive to the suburbs and smaller towns. Today, city centers are also benefiting from the freshest possible produce. 

We’re seeing this trend support the sustainable menu—community gardens are cropping up across cities all over America.

In 2023, an entire army of gardening and farming enthusiasts have been put through pandemic boot camp and come out more passionate than ever. On balconies, rooftops, and unused lots in cities everywhere, hydroponic, vertical, and all kinds of other unique growing strategies are transforming cities into farms and local restaurant menus into farm-to-table fare.

Learn how Revel client Balance Pan-Asian Grille is leveraging aquaponic farms to supply their growing fast-casual restaurants with delicious, fresh produce in this blog post

If you’re considering making the switch to local-grown produce, keep in mind that using ingredients promptly is key to your success. You’ll want to ensure you use ingredients in time. 

2. Sustainability Keeps Its Crown

Sustainability mattered in 2022, and that hasn’t changed a bit in 2023. From organic farming (which eliminates synthetic pesticides and fertilizers), to regenerative agriculture techniques (like cover cropping, crop rotation, and eliminating tillage), and permaculture systems that mimic natural ecosystems, sustainable practices are a 2023 mainstay. 

Expect a healthy blend of local and sustainable menu trends, in which potatoes grow on the sides of skyscrapers and hydroponic greenhouses find themselves on city blocks. 

This is one of the few menu trends of 2023 that could really hurt you if you’re not paying attention. When choosing what to put on the menu, restaurants need to think about not only how affordable the food is, but how likely it is to remain affordable. As supply chain costs go up and resources deplete, focusing on sustainable menu options won't just be a moral prerogative, but a practical one for restaurants, as will be reducing food waste as much as possible. 

3. Foods Get Free Range

Increasingly, consumers are demanding that the animals they eat aren't kept contained in small cages or pens. There is certainly an ethical reason for the increased demand for free-range meat for many consumers, but there's also a practical reason trends in menus are leaning towards free-range.

Coming out of the pandemic, consumers are more concerned about disease in livestock. News reports about E. coli, salmonella, etc., all cause consumers to seek out pasture-raised food, where increased space may mean decreased disease spread

For restaurant owners, this means higher costs for pasture-raised beef, pork, and chicken. It also means finding ways to adjust recipes so that these meats are appealing to consumers. 

Many consumers have decided that they care about where their meat comes from, but they likely haven’t yet adjusted to the leaner and often more gamey taste of free-range foods. This will lead menu ideas for 2023 and going into 2024 to be innovative ways to season and prepare meat, likely borrowing from culinary approaches that have typically used more flavorful meat, like Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. 

4. Mixing Sugar & Spice

Baked goods, especially chocolate, and spicy foods have always been a winning combination, but this craze is likely to come out of niche candy bars in 2023. Expect spicy flavors in menus this year, like breakfast dishes with muffins glazed with cayenne and orange glaze, lunch sides like jalapeno cornbread muffins, and desserts like Mexican hot chocolate chip cookies and chili chocolate cupcakes. Don't be surprised if a lot of fruity flavors slide their way into glazes and frostings, either.

If you are a fan of spicy flavors but also have a sweet tooth, this is the year for you. For restaurant owners, keeping up with this fast-moving spicy trend is going to demand some innovative recipes. 

Finding the sweet spot between too spicy and not spicy enough can be a challenge. It's not a bad idea to offer different options with various spiciness ratings so customers can choose for themselves. 

5. Backyard Barbecues Go International

Backyard barbecues are a ubiquitous part of the American summer. However, this summer, we are seeing a lot more international flair both around the pool and at restaurants. Menu trends of 2023 in the BBQ space feature smokey and peppery BBQ with Middle East-inspired spices and recipes, and especially traditional Korean and Thai barbecue techniques. Korean fried chicken was all the rage last year, but this is the year of Korean BBQ. 

It's not that consumers still don't love a good old-fashioned barbecue sauce. It's just that the taste for the unique ingredients and cooking styles of other cultures' barbecues is taking off in a serious way this year. Both spicy flavors and a new demand for umami will define trends in menus across categories, but especially when it comes to barbecue.

You may want to look into some sauces that offer an international approach.

6. Butter It Up

We all had that moment towards the end of the pandemic when we just kind of said "Sure, why not?" That's kind of how it is with the butter board. 

This craze has been sweeping the internet and dinner parties since Josh McFadden did it on TikTok, and it really just works with that go-for-it approach. Butter is smeared across a serving board, and toppings are thrown on top. You can play with savory, sweet, or spicy flavors, or mix them up for an impactful taste. 

Just cut up a freshly toasted loaf of bread, and appetizers are done. This more indulgent and considerably simpler version of the charcuterie board is all the craze this year. 

Restaurant owners who want to integrate this most indulgent of menu ideas for 2023 will need to be looking for ways to differentiate themselves from competitors who are also coming up with their first butter boards. 

Sourcing the highest quality and most unique butters will absolutely be a priority if you expect consumers to feel that they are getting their money's worth from your butter board.

7. Moringa

Haven't heard of moringa? You're likely to soon. It’s a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree native to South and Southeast Asia, and it’s one of the biggest trends in menus in the health niche. 

If you want your salads to be the talk of the town, finding fresh moringa is going to become your top priority. Moringa is still gaining in popularity. Right now, only powdered versions and teas are readily available. 

However, as the year progresses and 2024 comes on, expect restaurants to recognize the demand for moringa and begin asking for it from growers as well. Being ahead of ingredient trends in menus is one of the best ways to leap ahead of the competition.

If you can be on the front lines in requesting moringa leaves for your salads, you'll also be the first one offering them in your restaurants. You’re sure to bring in a flood of business from customers obsessed with the incredible health qualities of moringa.

8. Less Bubbly, More Fizzy

2023 is seeing a surge of people coming out of lockdown with new goals for self-improvement. One of the biggest New Year's resolutions for 2023 that seems to be sticking around for many people is to drink less alcohol, soda, or other unhealthy drinks. 

As a result, at-home concoctions and drink menus are touting kombucha mixes, seltzer with wholesome herbal and spicy flavors like ginger, rosemary, mint, and citrus, and other drinks designed to be as good for you as they are yummy. If your menu doesn't have a good variety of non-alcoholic drink options, it's time to start coming up with some recipes.

The standard mocktails and soda collection aren't going to cut it with competing menu ideas for 2023 that feature innovative drinks. If you're not ready to start your own kombucha culture, it's probably a good idea to talk to local brewers in your area and see what kind of deals they offer. 

Don't stop with kombucha; incorporate other herbal ingredients like sweet teas, fruit juices, etc., to make this sometimes unappealing drink in high demand by your customers.

Keep Ahead of Menu Trends of 2023

The restaurant industry is facing enough hardship without taking big shocks to what consumers are expecting from the menu too. However, the evolving tastes of consumers don't care if you have to scramble to keep up. 

You don't have to embrace all the emerging menu ideas for 2023 to continue attracting new customers and keep your loyal patrons satisfied. However, it's a good idea to look at your restaurant niche and decide whether any of the important menu trends this year are likely to affect you. You can bet your competitors are.