Three UK food trend talking points from the 'What's Hot' US Culinary Forecast 2023

The NRA’s annual ‘What’s Hot’ US food trend forecast has dropped, with Egg Soldiers discussing three potential crossover areas with the UK foodservice market for 2023 (and beyond)
What's Hot Culinary Forecast 2023
Restaurant trend forecasts for 2023 are coming in hot across the globe, with the National Restaurant Association (NRA) now weighing in with its 2023 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast for the US market, which it dropped last month.

Produced in partnership with the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and foodservice market analysts Technomic, with more than 500 chefs surveyed from across the country, the report is broken down into a number of sections, including the top 10 ‘Hot Trends’ overall for US foodservice next year, the top three Hot Trends from each category, and emerging food trends to keep an eye for Gen Z audiences in the future.

While, of course, we’re a UK-based trends service and development agency, there are always parallels to be found between ours and the US food market in terms of major trend trajectories. So, we poured over the 13-page trend report, emerging with three talking points relevant to UK foodservice in 2023 (and beyond).

Menu Streamlining
Coming in at number six on the NRA’s 10 Hot Trends for 2023 list, menu streamlining is also a hot topic here in the UK as restaurants move towards more minimalist menus to address soaring costs, staff shortages, supply chain issues and waning footfall.

In the report, 65% of US restaurants surveyed said they had changed menu items in the past year as a strategy to mitigate rising costs. In the UK, strategic menu engineering is becoming more and more important, with affordable set menu offerings emerging as a potential cost of living tactic for a wider range of restaurants in keeping diners comfortable from a price perspective while managing costs and kitchen workload.

Indeed, in a recent interview with the Evening Standard, Dom Fernando of Paradise in Soho said: “We need to offer as much value as guests expect and we can afford. Possibly we might have to only have a set menu so we can control costs but give more time for fewer chefs to cook.”

Southeast Asian Cuisines
Image: JKS Restaurants
Driven by long-established stalwarts such as Roti King (and it’s signature roti canai), Pho and Romulo Cafe in London, Southeast Asian food has been on the rise in the UK for something close to a decade.

And It's really gathered momentum in the last few years, with high-profile eateries such as Kiln, Laksamania, and the newly-opened Plaza Khao Gaeng and sister restaurant Speedboat Bar further establishing the likes of Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese and Singaporean as popular cuisine choices for UK restaurant diners.

According to the NRA, the same is happening in the US, with Southeast Asian – specifically Vietnamese, Singaporean and Fillipino – taking tenth spot on its top 2023 food trends list.
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Amazake and Alfajor
Pegged as ‘future hot trends’, specifically with Gen Z’s increasing interest in global foods and flavours, the NRA has both amazake and alfajor on its list of one’s to watch in the US going beyond 2023.

Amazake, the traditional Japanese fermented rice drink, is slowly starting to make a name for itself among chefs and innovators, particularly with desserts and baked goods. Koji is the key here, with amazake’s key ingredient making its way beyond high-end dining to be something of a standout ingredient for 2022.

Alfajor, meanwhile, is a traditional sweet/dessert found across South America and parts of Europe. Effectively a sandwich cookie, or wagon wheel, often comprising two discs of baked dough around dulce de leche and grated coconut; alfajores have been on the rise in the US for about five years, but we’re yet to see any real penetration in the UK beyond niche and artisan producers.
Action Points for UK restaurants and operators
Three ways to take advantage in 2023
  • Engineer affordability
    British diners are forecasted to veer away from à la carte norms in 2023 as the cost of living crisis bites. Affordable and creative set menu offerings should be a key development area for chefs as we move into the new year. Explore zero waste tactics as part of cost-effective, experience-led menus for cash-concious diners
  • Street food stars
    From Malaysian roti canai to Filipino lumpiang shanghai; a broad range of Southeast Asian street food staples are starting to make waves well beyond their respective places of origin. And they make for an ideal launch point into Southeast Asian cuisines for UK operators as consumer interest continues to grow.
  • Awesome Amazake
    Like in the US, amazake is starting to enter the conversation in UK foodservice, with chefs and developers discovering the wide-ranging flavour and textural benefits of using the koji-fermented rice drink across a range of applications.
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