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Global flavors, plant-based dishes and comfort classics are just some of the big food trends projected to take 2023 by storm. There’s no doubt the restaurant industry is rapidly changing – the post-pandemic landscape has shaken up how customers like to dine. In-person dining is back in full force, and diners are craving novelty eating experiences.

2022 has shown us that takeout and delivery is more than just a pandemic necessity – it’s now something customers expect. Gone are the days of digging through your junk drawer to find a local restaurant’s menu. Today’s diners turn to the internet to discover new restaurants and place an order. Third-party delivery services like Grubhub provide a marketplace for diners to do this, and the demand has continued to grow. In fact, 90% of consumers surveyed said they expect consistent or increased third-party delivery usage in the future.

As we welcome a new year we also are preparing for a new wave of restaurant trends. Let’s see what’s predicted to be hot in 2023.

What’s sizzling in the restaurant industry in 2023?

1. Flavor tourism will expand diners’ pallets

Diner’s don’t need to travel to Spain to get the best freshly served empanadas or trek to Vietnam to get a warm serving of Pho. Global dishes are on the rise in the U.S. as customers crave worldwide flavors. Gen Z is particularly turning to breakthrough foods and flavors, diving into globally inspired cuisines and posting about it online.

Exploring global flavors no longer requires a plane fare. The National Restaurant Association pinpointed 3 global cuisines that are expected to rise in popularity in the U.S. this year:

  1. South Asian (Vietnamese, Singaporean, Philippine, etc.)
  2. Caribbean (Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, etc.)
  3. South American (Argentinian, Brazilian, Chilean, etc.)

Does your restaurant feature any of these cuisines? Make sure you highlight what global dishes your restaurant serves on your website, menu and storefront to catch diners’ attention. Including cuisine call-outs can help potential customers find your restaurant online when they’re craving a specific flavor.

Integrating global ingredients doesn’t require upending your menu. Many chefs are turning to sauces, spices and seasonings to liven up their dishes. Here are the top 3 global condiments customers are craving:

  1. Sriracha variations
  2. Ganjang (Korean soy sauce)
  3. Guajillo chili sauce

What global cuisines are on the rise on Grubhub? Australian and South African cuisines have seen a dramatic increase in orders on Grubhub from 2021 to 2023. Australian dishes saw a whopping 531% increase year of year, while South African cuisine grew in popularity by 294%. 

2. Comfort food is here to stay

While flavor exploration is growing, diners will always crave the dishes that incorporate familiar favorites. A whiff of baked mac and cheese or a taste of creamy mashed potatoes can get any diner’s mouth watering. The proof is in the pudding: Comfort foods remain some of the most ordered dishes in the new year.

Comfort dishes really shine in the sides category. Here are the top 5 ordered sides from Grubhub in 2022:

  1. Hash Browns
  2. Mozzarella Sticks
  3. Edamame
  4. Mac & Cheese
  5. Onion Rings

Comfort food does not need to be boring. Just because diners are craving comforting flavors doesn’t mean chefs need to stifle their creativity. Diners still appreciate unique and creative takes on classics, especially as the restaurant industry becomes more saturated and options can feel endless for curious customers. Taking a unique approach to a comfort dish or giving customers the opportunity to customize their cuisine can help make your restaurant stand out.

The great thing about comfort foods is that many diners are familiar with the burst of flavor they should expect when they take a bite of your classic dishes. That’s why it can help to revisit your menu descriptions to help customers imagine what your cuisine will taste like before they place an order. Consider spicing up your menu descriptions to help your comfort food come to life.

3. Plant-based dishes are growing in popularity

Environmentally conscious diners are on the rise, and plant-based cuisine is in high demand now more than ever. In fact, 40% of consumers say they plan to purchase plant-based meat substitutes in 2023. Incorporating plant-based dishes into your menu can help your restaurant appeal to a wider audience.

Plant-based milks are a particularly popular dairy substitute for diners who are cutting dairy from their diets. Here are the top milk alternatives that are ordered on Grubhub:

  1. Oat Milk
  2. Almond Milk
  3. Coconut Milk
  4. Soy Milk
  5. Cashew Milk

Consider adding plant-based substitutes as a choice on your menu. Does your caesar salad come with chicken? Add a tofu option as well. Do you serve a mean hamburger? Let diners choose to make it a veggie burger instead. Adding vegan choices can help turn any popular dish into an option for everyone.

Convenient vegan restaurants are catapulting into the spotlight as diners are beginning to expect freshness and speed during their dining experience. Fast-food style vegan restaurants used to only appeal to a fringe customer base, but in recent years these consumers have multiplied to drive up demand. These types of restaurants combine on-the-go style service while featuring healthy cuisine, appealing to the plant-based trend.

This environmental focus extends to more than just the food at your restaurant as sustainability continues to be top of mind for customers. Doubling down on reducing food waste, sustainable packaging and recycling can make your restaurant more attractive to customers. Take a look at our sustainability tips to help your restaurant go green.

4. Restaurants are going digital

These days many diners don’t step food into a restaurant before looking it up online. In fact, 90% of customers research a restaurant online before visiting. Your restaurant needs a strong digital presence in order to reach new customers. If you haven’t extended your restaurant brand into the digital world it’s time to modernize.

Grubhub estimates that 40% of orders in 2023 at restaurants will be online. While enlisting the help of third-party delivery apps like Grubhub attracts curious customers, establishing a full online presence for your restaurant requires a few more ingredients. What does your restaurant need to have a stellar digital presence?

  • Website. Your restaurant’s website is the centerpiece of your online presence. It should reflect your restaurant’s brand and give customers all the info they need like your menu, hours and location. Check out 8 more key elements your restaurant website needs.
  • Online ordering platform. Every time your restaurant appears in an online search it’s a chance for you to capture a customer. However, you can’t turn hungry browsers into satisfied customers without giving them an avenue to place an order. That’s why many restaurants are turning to Direct, a commission-free online ordering site where customers can place an order directly from your restaurant. Take a look at how Direct can help you own your customer’s data and take more orders.
  • QR code menu. Contactless menus took the restaurant industry by storm during the pandemic. QR codes give customers the ability to access your menu with just a click on their smartphone. QR codes can also direct customers to your website and promote online orders. Learn more about how you can incorporate QR codes into your restaurant’s digital strategy.
  • Google Business listing. Your restaurant’s Google Business Profile is often the first thing that will pop up when a customer searches for your business online. It’s essential that your Business Profile includes links to your website and online ordering platform as well as highlight your hours and address. Take a look at how to spice up your Business Profile.
  • Social media. Creating an Instagram or TikTok profile can instantly get your restaurant more exposure. Social media foodies follow accounts that peak their taste buds, and younger customers frequently share their favorite cuisine to their followers. Social media exposure can also drive orders. 50% of customers surveyed said a restaurant’s social media presence is important when deciding where to order. Check out more tips on how to make your social media presence shine.

Creating and maintaining a digital presence requires strategy. It’s more than just setting up a website or a social media profile – you need to implement marketing tactics to make your online presence known. So what does it take to stand out in a saturated market? Hear from restaurant experts on how to upgrade your digital impact in Ask the Experts: The Direct Path to a Digital Restaurant Presence webinar.

5. Diners are quenching their thirst with beverage delivery

One thing 2022 has shown us is that grub goes down a lot smoother with a drink, and that’s why diners are continuing to order beverages with their takeout and delivery dishes. Beverages have proven to be an important menu category for successful takeout and delivery programs. Not only do non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages complete the off-premise dining experience for customers, but they also raise check averages and drive margins for restaurants.

The best thing about the trend in beverage delivery is that it can instantly boost your restaurant’s bottom line. Orders with alcohol have a per-ticket average of $14-$15 higher than alcohol-free orders. Learn if your restaurant can add alcohol delivery to your takeout and delivery strategy and how to optimize your restaurant for beverage delivery.

Here are the top 5 alcohol orders on Grubhub in 2022:

  1. Beer
  2. Margarita
  3. Hot Sake
  4. Piña Colada
  5. White Wine

Diners are not just turning to buzzed drinks to quench their thirst. In fact, mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks saw a spike in popularity in 2022. The alcohol-free spirit movement is chugging right along with mocktail recipes getting more creative. Try adding infused faux alcohols to your mixed drink menu or experiment with herbs and fruits to create fancy beverages that feel special without imparting an alcohol-based buzz.

Here are the top three non-alcoholic beverages predicted to take 2023 by storm:

  1. Oat, nut or seed milks
  2. Cold brew innovations
  3. Non-alcoholic seltzers and sparkling water

No matter what type of independent restaurant you run it pays to have drink options. If you serve coffee it’s essential you have dairy-free milk options. If you run a lunch spot try venturing into milkshakes or smoothies. Your dinner menu isn’t complete without soda, beer and cocktails. The more drink options you create the more ways diners can quench their thirst.

6. Bold ingredients are making a splash

2023 is the year of bold flavors. From spicy maple that combines the sweetness of syrup with the fiery kick of sriracha, to yuzu that floods tastebuds with a citrusy aroma, diners are craving flavors that are outside the box. This rising trend in bold ingredients opens the door to creativity. Let your chefs experiment with these ingredients. Diners will be intrigued by unique integrations of trending tastes. 

Datassential identified 10 flavors and ingredients that are predicted to be everywhere in 2023:

  • Mangonada: A frozen Mexican mango sorbet and chamoy topped with chili powder.
  • Yuzu: An East Asian citrus fruit with a fragrant, acidic juice.
  • Spicy Maple: Adds a fiery spin to classic maple.
  • Ube: A sweet Filipino purple yam.
  • Mushrooms: The popular fungi that’s full of vitamin D.
  • Birria: A Mexican stew or soup that is traditionally made with marinated meat.
  • Salsa Macha: A Mexican salsa made with crispy chili peppers, garlic, peanuts and sesame seeds in oil.
  • Soju: A distilled Korean alcoholic beverage that usually has a fruity taste.
  • London Fog: A hot tea-based drink that consists of Earl Grey tea, steamed milk and vanilla syrup.
  • Ranch Water: A summer cocktail made with tequila, lime and Topo Chico.

Adding bold ingredients to your dishes may mean updating your menu. Make sure you’re up to date with menu best practices to ensure you highlight your dishes in an irresistible way.

Check out Grubhub's 2022 Delivered

Takeout and delivery will continue to grow in 2023

Convenience is one of the top things modern diners value, and takeout and delivery services are central to making restaurants more accessible. Online food ordering is expected to grow to over $220 billion by 2023, equating to roughly 40% of all restaurant sales. Today, online ordering accounts for approximately 42% of the overall food ordering market. Customers are going online to browse cuisine, and if your restaurant isn’t ready to take orders, you will miss out on this customer demand.

As takeout and delivery demand continues to skyrocket, it’s essential your restaurant is equipped to handle this surge. Diners expect timeliness, order accuracy and delicious grub, putting the pressure on restaurants to ensure customer satisfaction. Preparation and strategy is key in order to handle the rise in demand. Brush up on how to prepare your restaurant delivery for high demand ordering times.
Implementing a successful takeout and delivery takes time and manpower. As a restaurateur, we know you already have a lot on your plate. Partner with Grubhub to take some of the load off. Let Grubhub handle getting your restaurant in front of hungry customers while you watch the orders roll in. Ready to gain more customers and boost your bottom line? Partner with Grubhub today.