What will you see on restaurant menus next year?
It’s hard to eat healthfully at this time of year, but 2013 may be a different story.
That’s because vegetables are looking like the No. 1 restaurant trend in the new year.
As the budgets of food-service operations continue to rise and Americans seek ways to improve their diets, expect restaurants to offer more meatless meals, innovative salads, creative presentations of roasted and steamed vegetables and more dishes featuring carrots, kale and brussels sprouts.
According to a report from food-research firm Technomic, which interviewed chefs and diners as part of its homework, “Vegetables at the center of the plate will be more prevalent, as consumers continue to seek fresh, local, healthful fare, and operators are squeezed by rising costs for proteins.”
Here’s what else you’ll see in restaurants in 2013, according to Chicago-based Technomic:
Grains. Dishes such as polenta, couscous and bulgar are important in some ethnic cuisines. And several grains — quinoa, amaranth, millet, wild rice, buckwheat — do not contain gluten, so they are leading the way in the growing gluten-free movement.
Chicken. With a reasonable price and lots of ways to prepare it, chicken remains a restaurant staple. Look for more spicy twists on classics, including Latin-accented marinated chicken and African peri-peri chicken.
Snacks. McDonald’s has Spicy Chicken McBites, Sonic has cheesecake bites and KFC sells popcorn chicken. Americans are eating around-the-clock and small bites at non-meal times fill the need.
Value-as-volume. Look for more deals like Pizza Hut’s Big Dinner Box (two pizzas with multiple sides) and Olive Garden’s just concluded promotion called Dinner Today & Dinner Tomorrow (a dine-in and a to-go meal).
Diner and deli fare. Expect to see more premium diner- and deli-inspired dishes, such as meaty sandwiches and full-flavored soups.
Noodles. An international array of noodles — ramen, udon, soba, rice, cellophane — will star in hearty layered bowls, fragrant soups and mixed-textured salads.
South America. Diners who love Asian cuisine looked beyond China to Thailand and Vietnam. Similarly, fans of Mexican foods will explore regions to the south — Brazil, Argentina and Peru. What they’ll find is South American-style grilled meats, chimichurri sauce, ceviche and drinks like Brazil’s caipirinha and Peru’s pisco sour.
Global fast-casual. Build-your-own gourmet burger chains and brick-oven pizza restaurants have been on the rise for some time, but there will be more international flavors in the fast-casual sector. Ahead: American barbecue, Southeast Asian soups and sandwiches and Middle Eastern entrees.
Beverage explosion. Soda, tea and margaritas are fine, but look for a host of new drinks designed to create excitement. A preview: sodas made in-house, cocktails made with candy-flavored vodkas, microdistillery liquors, fresh fruit (especially tropical fruit) beverages, natural energy drinks and more hard ciders.
Food editor Kathryn Rem can be reached at email@example.com or 788-1520.