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Plant-based dishes, bold new flavors, and comfort classics are just some of the big food trends we saw in 2021. While the year was extremely unpredicted with changing regulations and new variants impacting in-person dining, many restaurant operators continued to thrive and build resiliency throughout 2021.
Wondering what the next top food trend in 2022 will be? Let’s take a look back at what food trends exploded in the industry in 2021 and share top predictions for 2022 to help you capture your customer’s favorite flavors and position your restaurant as a frontrunner as the seasons change.
What are the popular food trends of 2021?
Which dishes raced up the takeout and delivery charts? These were the top movers last year, with details on how much these orders increased over 2021.
- Impossible cheeseburger (+442%)
- Shredded pork taco (+310%)
- Apple pecan chicken salad (+287%)
- Detroit-style pizza (+263%)
- Margarita: (+240%)
- Pub mac and cheese (+174%)
- Pork dumplings [Kurobuta xiao long bao] (+173%)
- Chicken burrito (+166%)
- Poke nacho (+158%)
- Tofu lettuce wrap (+155%)
The Hottest 2022 food trends to keep an eye on
In our own annual State of the Plate Report, our experts identified the following dishes as likely candidates to top menus in the coming year:
- Margherita flatbread pizza
- Buffalo chicken tots
- Peanut butter protein smoothie
- Cajun steakburger
- Apple cobbler
Industry groups, professional chef associations, and analysts have ideas too. Here’s a roundup of the top trends to expect in 2022.
Adventurous flavors will be a new food trend in 2022
After feeling cooped up in recent years, many diners are ready to explore the world—at least with their palettes. Expect growth in international cuisine, particularly foods from Southeast Asia (especially Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines), South America, Africa, and the Mediterranean.
Look for these bold spices and international flavors to heat up next year:
A staple in Korean food, these red chili pastes will spice up sauces, stews, and stir-fry.
This popular Mexican seasoning blend can perk up marinades and spice rubs, or get sprinkled on fries or chips—or even fresh fruits and vegetables.
Popular in Middle Eastern foods for centuries, this spicy chili pepper paste looks to play a starring role in mains and sides in 2022.
Look for this East Asian citrus fruit flavor to show up in desserts, cocktails, salads, and anywhere else you might use lemon or grapefruit.
This purple sweet potato has been a mainstay of Filipino cooking for years. It’s healthy, fiber-rich, and a great substitute for sweet potatoes or pumpkin—or on its own as a side.
Look for this light, classic Greek cucumber yogurt sauce to show up in more dishes as a sauce or condiment.
Expect this flavorful flower to play a big role this year in everything from beverages to desserts.
Expect healthy demand for healthy menu options
2021 saw a renewed focus on healthy living, and restaurant industry watchers expect that trend to continue in 2022. Look for more dishes featuring immunity-boosting foods like berries, tomatoes, and seeds.
Meat alternatives will also continue booming, with plant-based proteins showing up in everything from burgers to sandwiches to breakfast burritos. In addition to plant-based beef dishes like Impossible burgers, experts forecast expect sharp growth in plant-based chicken options too. Overall, online food seller ShelfNow reported that vegetarian food sales increased by 156% between 2020 and 2021, and vegan sales grew 150%.
Finally, look for the growing demand for “mocktails” and other no-alcohol/low-alcohol beverage options. According to market analyst Mintel, 24% of Gen-Z consumers say they don’t drink alcohol often or at all when dining out, due to health reasons. Beverage market analyst IWSR forecasts that consumption of low- and no-alcohol beverages will increase by 31% through 2024.
More menus will go avant-garde
For some customers, only tried-and-true flavors will hit the spot. But for more adventurous types, a number of groundbreaking new menu trends will make waves in 2022, including:
- Mushroom-based coffee and other beverages
- Breakfast salads (along with breakfast bowls and breakfast cookies)
- New spins on potato chips and fries, featuring unexpected flavors and spices from around the world
- CBD-infused desserts and beverages
Alcohol delivery and alcohol to-go will continue to grow
According to the National Restaurant Association, 39 states allowed cocktails-to-go legal in response to the pandemic and 17 jurisdictions made cocktails-to-go a permanent offering.
- And According to Beveragedaily.com alcohol e-commerce, including the delivery of alcohol through marketplace apps like Grubhub, is set to grow 66% across 2020-2025.
- In 2021, we saw alcohol delivery for the following items grow dramatically at Grubhub:
- Margarita (+240%)
- Mexican beer (+174%)
- Mango mojito (+110%)
- Cabernet Sauvignon (+106%)
- Prosecco (+102%)
Did you know you can sell alcoholic beverages on Grubhub?
Restaurants who join Grubhub in select markets can add alcohol to their delivery and takeout menu. Listing alcohol options on your menu can increase the average order value by $14-$15, and restaurants that have these options can see 8% of orders containing an alcohol menu item.
Alcohol delivery is only available in certain markets so you should speak with a Grubhub representative first to learn if this opportunity is available to you!
Takeout and delivery will continue to grow in 2022
Capitalizing on the biggest food trends in 2022 also means finding the right avenue to reach customers, whether on-premise or through delivery and takeout. The National Restaurant Association predicts that the off-premises market will be where the majority of industry growth is going to come from over the next 10 years. This means you need the right partner to help you navigate this changing environment and build your online ordering strategy.
That’s where Grubhub comes in. Grubhub can help you reach new hungry customers eager to order from local restaurants (just like yours!).
Tap into takeout and delivery to bring these trends to diners by signing up with Grubhub for Restaurants.