The new year is the perfect time to put new food on your plate.
What will they be in 2024? It’s up to you. But every year, food industry folks — from magazine editors and hospitality experts to trade show organizers and SEO gurus — predict the trends for the year to come.
Some pan out, like ghost kitchens, espresso martinis, robots in restaurants, birria, the demise of the printed menu, chili crunch and plant-based meats. Others — bizarre ice cream flavors, blowfish tails, a vegetable called tiger nut — thankfully do not.
We combed through predictions from the National Restaurant Association, restaurant consulting firms and dining publications — plus our own — for a look at how we’ll be eating this year.
Restaurants without landlines
Want to call that newly opened restaurant for a reservation? Good luck. More and more restaurants are forgoing the traditional landline, often because answering calls from folks asking about hours and directions takes up a considerable amount of an employee’s day. Owners also say that often, they don’t have enough employees to dedicate one to man the phone.
Another factor is the popularity of online reservation platforms, which handle communication so a restaurant doesn’t have to.
This lack of communication also drives interest (and sometimes frustration). The Butcher’s Block in Long Branch has been without a phone for years, and folks longing for a reservation know to stop by for lunch to make one.
Social media defines the dish
According to the National Restaurant Association’s culinary forecast, diners can expect restaurants to continue incorporating social media trends into their menus in 2024.
Does this mean we’ll be ordering Big Mac tacos, cottage cheese ice cream and feta fried eggs? Most likely, yes.
“Making use of platforms like TikTok is … very much a two-way street when it comes to influence,” reads their report. “Viewers help restaurant fare go viral and restaurants riff on online food fads, parlaying them into innovative menu additions.”
Social media’s influence on the food we buy is already underway: Think freeze-dried candy and chopped salad sandwiches. In 2023, a New Jersey-based TikTok and Instagram influencer hosted a March Madness-style bracket to find the “best restaurant in New Jersey.” The winner was Morristown’s South + Pine American Eatery, and owner Leia Gaccione said the feature brought in new customers.
A bracket of our own:And the Pork Roll Playoff champion is … Beach Shack in Point Pleasant Beach!
“TikTok’s impact on food trends and restaurant menus can’t be overstated,” the restaurant association said. “Through social media and at viral speeds, consumers discover virtually unknown flavors, ingredients, prep methods, and menu hacks.”
The next ‘it’ cuisine may be from Venezuela
More than 7 million Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years, and nearly half a million are permitted to work in the United States through the end of 2024, reports restaurant consulting firm Baum + Whitman.
“Of those taking jobs, probably half will be in the hospitality sector,” they reported, “so look for their ethnic foods and flavors to pop up in restaurant kitchens.”
Watch for guasacaca, a creamy sauce of avocados, herbs, peppers and vinegar; tajadas, which are sweet plantains topped with crema and cotija cheese; and thick arepas stuffed with meat and cheese.
Cocktails, but hold the alcohol
In 2020, restaurant consulting firm Baum + Whitman said low-proof and zero-proof cocktails were on the rise. They were right, and continue to be.
Aimée McElroy will open Catbird, a BYOB in Asbury Park, in 2024 and plans to focus on “really creative nonalcoholic drinks” using botanical spirits and dealcoholized wines. White wines and rosé lend themselves particularly well to dealcoholization, she said.
Alcohol-free drinks have “been trending rapidly over the last few years,” Jessica Sanders, beverage director for North Jersey-based Skopos Hospitality Group, told The USA TODAY NETWORK NJ. The reason, she said, is that people “want to eat clean, live more healthy lives, consume fewer calories.”
“The botanicals infusing the cocktail market carry a health-forward vibe, with easy-to-recognize herbs, berries,flowers and leaves enhancing the flavor and presentation,” the National Restaurant Association reports.
Say hello to sea-cuterie
Canned tuna and Saltine crackers, this is not.
The popularity of tinned fish took off during the pandemic, when homebound foodies were craving a little luxury. But canned mussels, sardines, anchovies, squid and more are popping up on menus at restaurant, wine and tapas bars.
Tinned fish snack boards, aka sea-cuterie, have been so popular on social media that Time magazine reported on a shortage in 2023.
“For generations a staple on kitchen tables in Madrid and Lisbon, fish in tins are now an expensive dining craze in the U.S.,” reports Baum + Whitman. “Called conservas on the Iberian Peninsula … these items were trending as social signifiers for America’s dining elite. Now they’re mass-market luxuries.”
Coffee made from mushrooms
Mushrooms often are a trending topic in food, thanks to their myriad uses.
Plant-based eaters slice the stems of king oyster mushrooms into “scallops,” blend them into “meat” for tacos and swap thick portobello caps for burger patties. Chefs and foragers search the woods for Chanterelle and Porcini mushrooms.
More commonly these days, medicinal varieties like lion’s mane, turkey tail, reishi and chaga are being dehydrated, crushed into powder and added to ground coffee. The fungi are said to help with concentration, boost the immune system, lower cholesterol and reduce stress, and sipping a half-mushroom, half-coffee mix means less caffeine.
Sipping mushrooms isn’t a new practice: They have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. But thanks to social media, they are seeing a surge in popularity: An Instagram search of “#mushroomcoffee” delivers more than 65,000 results.
Sarah Griesemer joined the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey in 2003 and has been writing all things food since 2014. Send restaurant tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, follow on Instagram at Jersey Shore Eats and subscribe to our Jersey Shore Eats newsletter.