4 trends driving the eating out market

The MCA menu and food trends report reveals the rise of ethical eating, the growth in menu choices, the up and coming cuisines and how it’s the year of the vegetable.

27 April 2018
sustainabilityvegetablesmiddle easternasianLatin American

1.       Conscious consumption

Responsibility is a key trend in 2018, with consumers demanding more health, craft and sustainability products. MCA says responsibility is the surging force sweeping along consumers, swaying operators and shaping menus.

This includes lower beef consumption, growing interest in vegetarian  and vegan diets, falling alcohol consumption, rising demand for local produce and the surge in popularity of nose-to-tail and root-to-stem eating.

2.       More menu choices

Average product counts have risen year-on-year at branded restaurants, fast food operators and pub restaurants alike, as brands have increased choice on menus.

Fast food saw the strongest growth, up from 56 to 67 dishes on average. Chain restaurants lead in average product terms with 74 dishes.

Vegetarian proteins have seen impressive growth, particularly in contemporary fast food, and now rival beef and pork in their share of the makeup of menus at branded restaurants.

3.       Asian, Middle East and South American 

Linking in to wider trends around adventurousness and healthier eating – as Food Spark has also noted – key cuisines this year include Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Middle Eastern and South American – not least Peruvian.

Izakaya cooking, udon and Korean fried chicken are all seeing rising momentum.

Tahini and other Middle Eastern sauces and spices, as well as halloumi, are benefiting from growing interest in vegetarian foods.

Venezuelan food is also the latest South American cuisine to make a splash in the restaurant scene. 

New Korean concepts are emerging, including chicken-centric On The Dak.  Meanwhile, new Japanese concepts focus on an increasingly diverse mix of Japanese  foods, including okonomiyaki. Taiwanese continues its growth, moving on from bao buns to fine dining and other Taiwanese products. 

The rise of these lighter and healthier options is coming at the expense of heavier, meatier foods and cuisines, with some traditional British favourites and undifferentiated BBQ concepts seeing weakening popularity.

4.       The year of the vegetable

Key food products in 2018 include jackfruit, as well as seaweed, seitan  and roasted vegetables – putting pressure on meat in the coming years.

Vegan dishes show an impressive 237% growth this year on menus, with mains and desserts showing the most significant increases. ASK Italian, Vintage Inns and Drake & Morgan have included a number of vegetarian options (and dish flags) to their menus for the first time. 

The days are numbered for undifferentiated, meat-mania BBQ brands too, says the report. Recent years have seen massive growth in BBQ concepts and BBQ items on menus. The trend towards lower meat consumption, healthier eating and sustainable sourcing, means BBQ concepts have to refine and differentiate their offers to stand out and remain relevant.

Operators need to address the growing demand for meat-free dishes, even from non-vegetarians, as people increasingly adopt a flexitarian  lifestyle.


The Menu and Food Trends Report 2018 is published by Food Spark’s sister service, MCA Insight. The full report is available to purchase from laura.bicknell@mca-insight.com

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