Top trends for 2019 include CBD- and cannabis-infused food and beverages along with zero-waste cooking, globally-inspired dishes and vegetable-forward cuisine. American Culinary Federation chefs identified the trends for the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s
Hot survey.”

The annual survey asks chefs to identify food and beverage trends for the coming year. Chefs ranked 140 items including breakfast to zero-waste cooking ranking them as “hot,” “yesterday’s news” or “perennial favorite.” The resulting What’s Hot Culinary Forecast gives a preview of the food, beverages and culinary themes that will be the talk of 2019.

Nearly 77 percent of the chefs ranked cannabis/CBD-infused drinks as the No. 1 trend, and 76 percent of them tapped cannabis/CBD-infused food as the second most popular. Chefs who participated in the survey said infusing foods with the ingredients could create unique cuisine opportunities and potential new markets for experiential dining occasions. Seventy percent ranked zero-waste cooking as the third most popular trend.

“The Association’s 2019 What’s Hot report reflects contemporary consumer cravings in tandem with emerging societal dining trends,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association. “We’re seeing a more eco-friendly perspective and greater emphasis on global flavors/cuisines as well as enhanced availability of healthful items/children’s meals and the exploration of new food sourcing options.”  

The survey indicates that Americans crave foods that not only nourish them but also help sustain the planet. Plant-based and veggie-centric foods are no longer just for vegetarians. In fact, three of the 15 hottest items are plant-based sausages/burgers, veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine and plant-based proteins. Hyper-local sourcing, including restaurants that grow produce in their own gardens, also made the Top 10 list.

Top trends for 2019

1. Cannabis/CBD oil-infused drinks

2. Cannabis/CBD oil-infused food

3. Zero-waste cooking

4. Globally-inspired breakfast dishes

5. Global flavors in kids’ meals

6. Hyper-local

7. New cuts of meat

8. Veggie-centric/vegetable-forward cuisine

9. Chef-driven fast-casual concepts

10. Craft/artisan/locally produced spirits

According to the Association’s 2019 What’s Hot Culinary Survey, a barometer of U.S. food and beverage trends, 650 professional chefs–all members of the American Culinary Federation–said infusing food and drink with cannabis and CBD could create unique cuisine opportunities and potential new markets for experiential dining occasions.

In fact, 77 percent of the survey’s respondents identified cannabis/CBD-infused drinks as the No. 1 trend. In addition, 76 percent of them tapped cannabis/CBD-infused food as the second most popular trend.

However, as chefs and restaurateurs consider incorporating the ingredients into menu items, Association officials stressed that cannabis and CBD are federally controlled substances and laws governing their use vary from state to state. As a result, they said, “Operators are urged to follow all laws, including applicable federal, state and local laws that apply when selling or using those items at their restaurants.”

Third on this year’s list of overall trends is zero-waste cooking, which calls for chefs and restaurateurs to reduce the amount of food waste created during the preparation of menu items to prevent it from ending up in landfills. The chefs said zero waste could be achieved through nose-to-tail cooking, incorporating “ugly” produce into menu items and recycling or composting, among other things.

“Zero-waste cooking is a sign of the times,” said Hudson Riehle, the Association’s senior vice president of research. “Millennial and Gen Z customers in particular expect the restaurants they patronize to be more eco-friendly, so sustainability is high on their list. It is also good for business. Not only is food waste reduction more cost effective, it creates brand loyalty and helps protect the planet. It’s a big win
for everyone.”