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The restaurant industry is always evolving in response to trends in technology, societal values and consumer preferences. As a restaurant owner, staying on top of the latest food trends can help your business stay ahead of the curve.

Many of the top food trends in 2023 are holdovers from previous years. For example, 2022 showed us that takeout and delivery were more than just a pandemic necessity. That’s not going anywhere — in fact, 90% of consumers surveyed said they expect consistent or increased third-party delivery usage in the future.

Top restaurant trends

Food trends in 2023 are aligned with broader consumer behaviors. Diners are looking for meals that are good for their mental and physical health, good for the planet and good for the palate.

Plant-based food alternatives are on the rise

More Americans are embracing plant-based foods in 2023. In fact, experts expect the value of the U.S. vegan food market to increase by 40% between 2021 and 2026 — a gain of $21.46 billion.

Meat and dairy substitutes aren’t limited to vegans and vegetarians; these alternative products also appeal to diners with lactose sensitivities, allergies, or concerns about sustainability. Approximately 40% of consumers say they plan to purchase plant-based meat substitutes in 2023.

As a restaurant operator, you can meet this demand by offering plant-based food alternatives, such as:

  • Veggie or tofu burgers
  • Realistic pork, beef, and chicken substitutes from brands such as Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods
  • Plant-based cheese
  • Dairy-free sorbets and ice creams

Operators are putting more effort into sustainable food production

Sustainability continues to be a top trend in the food industry. In 2022, the National Restaurant Association found 38% of consumers prefer restaurants that get food from local suppliers, and 70% of millennials are happy to pay more for sustainable packaging.

In response, restaurant operators are investing in:

  • Environmentally friendly to-go packaging
  • Locally sourced ingredients
  • Low-waste inventory practices
  • Non-plastic cutlery
  • Cultivated meat

Ready to take action? Learn how to reduce food waste and build a more sustainable restaurant.

Restaurants are offering more immersive dining experiences

Now that restaurants are back to pre-pandemic dining, they’re coming up with new ways to engage customers. In 2023, you can expect to see more immersive dining experiences — meals that also include an experience.

Examples include:

  • Serving meals in unusual locations, such as underwater restaurants or double-decker buses
  • Pre-dinner cooking, wine-pairing, or cocktail-mixing classes
  • Shopping with the chef to choose ingredients for the meal
  • Farm-to-table cuisine at an actual farm

Consumers are looking for modernized comfort food

Amid rising inflation and a tense political climate, Americans are in search of stress relief. Restaurants are rising to the challenge by providing modern takes on classic comfort food. This food trend isn’t going anywhere; 65% of restaurant operators expect it to continue in 2023.

If you want to hop on the comfort-food bandwagon, start with popular dishes such as macaroni and cheese or mozzarella sticks. Then, give them an upscale, updated twist. Bake five-cheese macaroni in an individual cast-iron skillet and top it with pancetta, for example, or serve fried brie-bite skewers with apple and bacon. Make sure to spice up your menu descriptions to whet diners’ appetites.

Flavor tourism is expanding diners’ palates

Flavor tourism — experiencing new cuisines and ingredients without leaving home — is on the rise. American diners love international foods. Chinese, Mexican, Italian and Japanese cuisines are perennial favorites; in 2023, the top-growing cuisines will be Caribbean, South Asian and South American.

To bring in new customers and increase order volume, find ways to introduce new global dishes to your menu:

  • Spice up existing dishes with sriracha or Guajillo chili sauce.
  • Create special dishes that tie into trending world topics, such as the Olympic Games.
  • Add menu items that showcase ingredients or meals that are relevant to your town’s heritage.

Your changes don’t need to be big or expensive. If you run a pizza place, for example, you could explore global toppings such as Greek feta and olives, Turkish spiced lamb or Indian chicken tikka masala.

Restaurants are going digital

Consumers are all about convenience; they expect businesses to deliver fast, efficient digital experiences. To keep up, you’ll need to build and maintain a thriving online presence. It can make a difference for your bottom line — 90% of customers research a restaurant online before visiting, and 45% of diners have tried a restaurant because they saw it on social media.

Ways you can create a better digital experience for customers include:

  • Building a comprehensive website
  • Maintaining  a current Google Business profile
  • Posting regularly on social media (check out our tips to maximize your TikTok presence)
  • Implementing QR code restaurant menus
  • Using an online ordering platform for takeout and delivery

Consumers are growing nostalgic for classic foods

Nostalgia is a big commercial driver for 2023. In the restaurant industry, classic foods are making a comeback — think burgers, BLTs, tater tots, and milkshakes. You might also see updated takes on childhood snacks, such as s’mores and oatmeal pies.

Use these nostalgic foods as inspiration:

  • Grilled cheese
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Apple pie
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Ice cream floats
  • Cookies
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Meatloaf

Top ingredient trends

If you’ve been on TikTok or Instagram recently, you know ingredient trends can spread like wildfire. All it takes is one viral video and food lovers from all over the world start to get on board.

Some top ingredient trends for 2023 are:

  • Butter. Butter boards, which are like updated charcuterie boards, are a viral social media sensation. They feature softened butter spread on a cheese board and topped with ingredients such as fresh herbs, bacon, or dried fruits.
  • Tinned fish. As TikTokers discover the joys of canned fish, popular influencers are posting taste tests and recipes with sardines, anchovies and upscale tuna.
  • Yuzu fruit and spicy honey. If you’re looking for ways to add extra flavor, look to bright, citrusy yuzu and spicy honey. This trend is inspired by a popular Korean tea blend.
  • Olive oil coffee. The bulletproof coffee craze has evolved — now, it’s all about olive oil. Even Starbucks is participating in this trend with its new Oleato beverages.
  • Vegan eggs. As part of the trend toward vegan alternatives, restaurants are embracing vegan eggs. Using ingredients such as chia seeds, tofu and vegan yogurt, these egg substitutes mimic the look, texture and taste of eggs.

On a macro scale, consumers continue to express interest in local foods. Whether you’re adding olive oil coffee or butter boards to offerings, one way to attract diners is to incorporate locally sourced ingredients into your menu.

Top beverage trends

Beverage trends are often the most accessible for restaurant owners. You can test them quickly to gauge customer interest, often without changing the back-of-house workflow. 

Zero-proof spirits are making a splash

Trends in consumer behavior indicate many people are cutting back on alcohol, but they’re still interested in beautifully presented beverages. Pinterest searches for “fancy nonalcoholic drinks” are up by 220%, and “mocktail bar” searches have risen by 75%. It’s easy to keep up with this emerging trend — simply create a special alcohol-free cocktail selection, or offer virgin versions of your best-selling drinks.

Tequilas are surging throughout the United States

Tequila is the 2023 beverage of choice. According to CGA, this spirit is gaining traction in states that include Texas and California. You can get ahead of the trend by ordering premium tequila varieties and adding a few tequila-based cocktails to your bar menu.

Alternative milk options

If you’ve been to a coffee shop lately, you know restaurants are offering a wide variety of milk options. In particular, customers are interested in oat, almond, coconut, soy and cashew milks. Expanding your selection accommodates people with allergies and adds extra depth of flavor to existing drinks. 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

Botanicals bring a fresh profile with natural flavor

Botanical ingredients are all the rage in 2023. Whether you’re using them as garnishes or a main component, these plant-based items add fresh flavor to the food. Consider options such as fresh herbs, edible flowers, berries, and nut oils.

Beverage delivery on the rise

Alcoholic beverage delivery gained traction during the pandemic, and demand remains high. Beer, wine, or a mixed drink can make a meal feel special, even when customers are eating at home. In fact, more than half of Millennial and Gen Z diners say they are more likely to order takeout from a restaurant that offers to-go alcohol.

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

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

City and state laws vary; before you start adding cocktails to the delivery menu, learn if your restaurant can deliver alcohol. If it’s legal in your area, learn how to optimize your restaurant for beverage delivery today to ensure each drink arrives safely.

Check out Grubhub's 2022 Delivered

Get ahead of the game with Grubhub

As you assess the restaurant trends for 2023, there’s one important thing to keep in mind. Whether they’re looking for plant-based meats or tequila cocktails, customers want convenience. Partnering with Grubhub — the world’s largest online ordering marketplace — is the best way to create a fast, efficient ordering experience.

Ready to gain more diners and boost your bottom line? Partner with Grubhub today.