1. The new south
The American South has seen a cultural resurgence as a new wave of people relocate to the area, due to the high cost of living in metropolitan cities. As the influence develops, expect to see more specific flavour profiles and challenger brands shaping how Southern state flavours are viewed.
For example, there are emerging businesses like Lillie’s Q, which makes a range of barbecue sauces. Think spicy cayenne from Memphis, black pepper from Northern Alabama and lime juice from Carolina.
Southern food is traditionally known for being classic comfort food, but a new wave of chefs are breaking the norm by reinventing dishes. While staying true to the flavours of the South, restaurateurs are applying elements of New York fine dining in a contemporary north-meets-south mash-up.
2. Po’ boy
Creole flavours are increasingly making appearances on menus across the US, with po’ boy sandwiches a staple from New Orleans. They are best served in crusty French bread with fillings such as shredded lettuce, tomatoes and seafood like fried shrimp, oysters, soft shell crab and crawfish, which is then topped with remoulade sauce or Creole mayonnaise.
Outlets taking off in the US include Hank’s Po Boys, Red Fish Grill and Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House.
It’s a relatively easy concept to put on the menu and will feed consumer’s appetite for fusion dishes and Instagram-ready food, according to McCain.
3. Curated food
Food halls are giving American consumers access to a whole host of world cuisines and a broader range of tastes and experiences.
Portland’s Pine Street Market features Korean-style street food using Southern-style BBQ smoking techniques, a tapas bar offering Spanish-style rotisserie chicken-to-go, pizza that marries New York and Italian styles, and a soft serve dessert bar. There’s also Chophouse Row in Seattle and St. Roch Market, which has locations in Miami and New Orleans that boast food from Mexico, Haiti, Egypt and Vietnam.
New mega food markets tap into all the major dining trends for choice, experience, informality and street food – something that can already be seen in the UK with the opening of sites like Market Hall Victoria and Boxpark Wembley in 2018, to be followed next year by places like Holloway from the team behind The Italian Job pub concept. Food halls also allow grassroots concepts airtime with consumers.
The diversity food halls offer has also added to consumer demands when it comes to choice on foodservice menus. It is one of the driving forces behind the demand for modern fusion collisions evolving across menus in the US, like the sushi burrito in the American dining chain Sushirrito.
4. Family dynamic
Businesses should adapt menus to cater to increasingly sophisticated palates, including the younger crowd, because children’s offerings of fish fingers or spaghetti bolognaise just don’t cut it anymore.
More families are choosing to eat out, which means operators should add more sides and sharing platters, so there is a broad range for the whole family to share and customise.
5. Modern vegan
There will also be an increase in dirty vegan dishes that are not necessarily healthy but high in flavour, comfort and indulgence.
6. Matching beers
The US now has more than 150 beer styles and over 20,000 brands, which has seen carefully crafted menus that match flavour profiles with beer styles.
In Delaware, Dogfish Head brewery pairs its beers with duck poutine made with Chicory Stout gravy, Alpine Idyll pizza made with 60 Minute IPA-braised mushrooms, burgers and crispy vegan chickpea falafel.
Texan brewery Karbach, meanwhile, has an on-site restaurant that serves both lunch and dinner, matching beers with dishes like Korean fried chicken, gulf shrimp and heirloom grits, and the Pineapple Express Pizza, which is made with smoked pork belly, charred pineapple, mozzarella, onion, togarashi and bonito.
Consumers’ thirst for flavour and new experiences will lead to a growing popularity in well-crafted food pairings across menus.