by Matt Alderton | November 08, 2013
Tasting menus, high-end chicken, upscale “food halls” and Asian flavors are among the top food and beverage trends that meeting professionals can expect to see in 2014, according to food and restaurant consultants Baum+Whiteman (B+W), which has released its list of the “12 Hottest Food & Beverage Trends for Restaurants and Hotel Dining for 2014.”

1. Restaurants in retail stores: “Thirty years ago, American department stores kicked out their restaurants … Big mistake. Now retailers, large and tiny, are mainlining food … discovering the magic of ‘dwell time’: Keep hungry customers on the premises longer and they buy much more,” explains B+W, which cites upscale restaurants in stores like Tommy Bahama, Urban Outfitters and Nordstrom’s, to name just a few.

2. Tasting menus: “A three-year bull-market is fueling a proliferation of tasting menus around the country,” says B+W, which predicts that such menus will “trickle down” from fine-dining restaurants to mid-scale eateries.

3. Upscale chicken: “The humble bird is going haute,” according to B+W, which notes menus around the country with high-end chicken dishes.

4. Food halls: “Cookie-cutter mall food courts serving repetitive same-old chain food are on the downslide,” B+W says. “Enter upscale ‘food halls’ … ‘artisan’ food staffed by local, name-brand restaurants. [The] best of these combine on-premises manufacturing, eating, takeaway and retail.”

5. Anchovies: “The no-no of Caesar salads has become respectable,” B+W notes. “People are ordering anchovies … especially Spanish salt-packed ones called bocquerones, and even fresh ones. You’ll find them on Niçoise salads and fresh mozzarella, or tossed with breadcrumbs atop pasta.”

6. Beverages: Among the beverage trends that B+W has noticed are tea, vermouth, craft sodas, sour beer and pressed juices.

7. Creative spreads: “EVOO and balsamic vinegar are too old-hat. Now the ante is upped as chefs litter your table with creative spreads,” according to B+W, which says bread baskets are now being served alongside spreads such as black garlic mostarda, vanilla tapenade, tomato jam, whipped lardo, rosemary hummus, smoked ricotta, whipped beet butter and porcini oil, to name just a few.

8. Healthy food: According to B+W, healthy fast-casual restaurant chains like Sweetgreen and Veggie Grill are sprouting up all over the country, while upscale restaurants are offering vegetarian tasting menus.

9. One-item restaurants: “Weekend popup markets … make room for wacky food creations … that often graduate to brick-and-mortar restaurants,” says B+W, which cites restaurants around the country that specialize in a single items, such as meatballs, waffles, dumplings and biscuits.

10. “Eatertainment”: “Food is not enough … restaurants are enhancing the dining experience by fiddling with our senses,” says B+W, which points to restaurants that sport features such as high-def projectors, smell diffusers, speakers and LED lights.

11. Asian flavors: “A new wave of Asian flavors (and menu items) is upon us,” according to B+W, which offers examples such as gochujang, a Korean mix of fermented hot chili paste and soy; shichimi togarashi, a Japanese seven-spice blend that includes sesame seeds, ginger, nori and hot peppers; and Thai and Vietnamese fish sauce.

12. Middle Eastern cuisine: “Forget Spain and Greece … the south side of the Mediterranean and the Levant are where new tastes and dishes are coming from: Turkey, Israel, Morocco, Iraq, Iran,” concludes B+W. “The cookbook ‘Jerusalem’ is flying out of bookstores and you need to read it.”

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