man and woman eating takeout pizza

Our Favorite Foodservice Menu Trends for 2021

While the COVID situation has been a real challenge for the foodservice industry, it has also been a time of innovation as restaurants explore creative ways to attract and retain customers. Learn about our five favorite foodservice trends for 2021 and what these might mean going forward.

2021 Foodservice Trends

While the effects of the COVID lockdown on the U.S. foodservice industry cannot be overstated, with Mintel estimating sales unlikely to recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, restaurant sales are expected to return to positive growth (6.3%) this year.1 Many foodservice players have been using this time to assess their customers’ new needs, especially the types of foods and experiences they’re looking for, with some exciting results. 

Here’s a look at some of the foodservice menu trends happening right now:

1. Delivery Dominates

The pandemic has made the delivery of everything from groceries to clothes to office supplies a new habit and expectation for many consumers. Restaurant delivery is no exception. Some recent innovations in this area include restaurants expanding into food trucks, new apps with customized menu suggestions for delivery orders, and hiring local musicians as delivery drivers who offer live performances for an extra fee. Catering is another area to watch, with 52% of restaurant consumers expressing an interest in catered restaurant meals for social gatherings.2

2. Exploring Global Cuisines While Stuck at Home

Many consumers are using ethnic and regional restaurant meals as a way to explore new cultures from home and enjoy a taste adventure, particularly for dishes they don’t know how to cook for themselves. This interest is also expanding into less well-known cuisines (for example, Peruvian, Ethiopian, and Malaysian), with a focus on authenticity. Consumers can also participate in virtual chef-led classes and tastings, which allows them to master a new skill, feel a sense of belonging, and share a meal with others.

takeout food on table

3. Comfort Foods

It should come as no surprise that comfort foods are still trending big. Whether it’s nostalgic sweet treats like brownies and caramel corn or savory cheesy dishes like mac & cheese and casseroles, comfort foods provide a sense of security and nostalgia that can help ease the stress of the times. 59% of U.S. diners say comfort foods appeal to them on restaurant menus, according to a recent Mintel report.3

4. DIY Desserts

Foodservice is also tapping into consumers’ desire for interactive food experiences through do-it-yourself meal and dessert kits. These appeal to consumers looking to hone their culinary skills, participate in a fun activity with their kids, or simply try something new. Dessert kits like Sprinkles Cupcakes’ DYO-TO-GO cupcake kit are a particularly clever solution to the birthdays and holidays that have to be celebrated at home during the pandemic. A dessert kit might include cupcakes, frosting, and sprinkles or edible glitter, color-themed for the occasion.

woman and child making cupcakes

5. Mealtime Blurred: Snacking Hits Menus

Another stand-out foodservice trend is the flurry of new menu items that blur mealtimes. Chicken, tacos, and salads now have a home on the breakfast menu, in addition to a variety of breakfast burgers. Other restaurants have started offering brunch to accommodate customers' altered schedules. Adapting menus for lockdown led to a rise in new menu items in a range of categories, from appetizers to sides to sandwiches.

Looking Ahead

2021 is an exciting year for the foodservice industry. While the end of the lockdown will allow consumers to return to eating out like before, consumers are not likely to let go of their new favorite foodservice innovations. To see how our portfolio of delicious and nutritious ingredients can help you meet today’s product trends, from plant-based solutions to functional protein solutions for bars and snacks, contact Glanbia Nutritionals. 

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References

1. Mintel, How America Eats - US - February 2021.
2-3. Mintel, 2021 US Foodservice Trends, March 2021. 

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