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6 Food Trends That Are Shaping Restaurant Menus In 2017

Mike Vichich
created on
Jun 12, 2017

Every year new dining trends emerge that disrupt the food industry. Whether diners want to eat healthier or savor a new, rich dessert, restaurants must pay attention if they hope to cash in on their customers’ cravings.


New dishes that are especially popular will probably be requested as the trend grows and people move from eating it at home to hoping you’ll serve it at their favorite restaurant.


Researchers use a variety of methods to predict what the next must-have dish will be from surveying restaurants and their guests to collecting menu data.


For this piece we decided to turn to Google’s actual, real-world search data to pinpoint exactly what people are typing into their search bars. We aggregated trends from looking at 100’s of food and restaurant queries  to see what trends are catching on among consumers.


You can bet that if people are looking for these dishes en masse, they’ll be looking for them on restaurant menus as well.


Trend #1: Cauliflower rice



Beginning in January 2016 cauliflower rice started picking up searches. As a popular, paleo friendly, low-calorie, rice replacement, searches have continued to increase with a major spike in January 2017.


There’s no question as to why this is so popular; it’s an easy-to-prepare side that can be whipped up into Lime Cilantro Cauliflower Rice, or Cauliflower Fried Rice, both highly-reviewed on AllRecipes.com.


For restaurants, this means that diners will be on the lookout for cauliflower rice and similar, low-calorie and low-carb options to help them stick to new diets or eat healthier in general.


Trend #2: Grain bowl



Our next highly-searched trend is the grain bowl, it has been gaining popularity over the last couple of years and also hit it’s peak in January of this year, possibly due to the health element coinciding with the new-year trend to lose weight.


These bowls are seen as healthier alternatives to traditional pasta dishes and other carb-heavy plates. Their customizability is also a big draw that will likely lead to restaurants experimenting with all kinds of grain bowl combinations, from hearty and savory to nutritious, sweet, orspicy.


Simply start your bowl with a grain of your choice, then add protein (meat), vegetables, dressings or sauces, and garnishments to top it off. People love the options to personalize and restaurants all over the country are adopting grain bowls as part of their menu.


Trend #3: Freakshake



The Internet and social media help trends move extraordinarily fast today. A popular dessert in Australia, the freakshake, was relentlessly shared on Instagram, and the mass appeal of ice cream quickly resulted in a treat craved around the world.


The freakshake is being picked up by restaurants in New York, Texas, and California, the UK, and more. It is a milk shake made in a mason jar with cream on top, a pastry dessert such as cake, brownie, or waffles, and other toppings like sauce, fruit, then topped off with a straw.


It’s called the Freakshake because it can be made with so many options. Restaurants offer custom versions or allow customers to build their own. It’s a simple addition to any dessert menu as a vast majority of restaurants already offer milkshakes and have the ingredients needed for the freakshake.


As an added bonus for restaurants, the freakshake’s extravagant style lends itself to social media sharing and free word-of-mouth advertising.


Trend #4: Poké



A centuries-old dish from Hawaii has become such a hot demand that restaurants are popping up just to serve it. The flavored raw fish on hot rice, poké or fish salad, can be both healthy and delicious.


Two favorite variations of poké are shoyu and ahi. Restaurants who already serve sushi and other fish recipes might consider taking a small leap into poké to see if their patrons enjoy it. Restaurants who already have a diverse and highly populated area will likely have people asking for the dish.


In our research we noticed a definite spike in interest in July 2016, this coincided with the release of Pokémon Go, so we normalized the trend data to show the true rise in popularity of the dish with conflating it with a rise in searches for the mobile game.


Trend #5: Breakfast tacos



In a country that already loves tacos, what could possibly be better than having them for breakfast? Fast food restaurants are offering tacos all day, and now testing breakfast tacos that include sausage, bacon, eggs, potatoes, and other ingredients.


If your customers love tacos and you have a busy morning crowd this could be just the dish you need to fill seats all day. In Google Trends we saw a major, steady increase in the searches for breakfast tacos over the last 3 years, with trend growing faster in 2017. Consumers have spoken--they want tacos for breakfast--and who can blame them?


Trend #6: Meatless burgers



As people struggle with rising food allergies, specialized diets, and attempts to overcome health issues, the search for meatless burgers has joined food trends.


Over the past two years the number of meatless burger searches have rose significantly. The public is also trying to make more animal-friendly choices and pay attention to exactly what they put in their bodies, and some meats are continuously getting bad raps in the media.


Popular meat substitutes are portabello mushrooms, black bean burgers, and veggie burgers. But new, lab-grown, meat-free burgers like Impossible and Beyond are also emerging quickly and should soon find their way onto restaurant menus all over the world. The success of these can often be found in the flavorings and spices used.


Diners are continuously looking for something new to try. They enjoy playing with new trends, and dishes from other parts of the world. From these trends restaurants can use this insight to shape their menus, offer exciting dishes, and perhaps introduce new trends based on what has caught on.