Look Who’s Driving Now: 2015 Means Catering to Millennials (Part 1 of 2: 2015 Food Trends)

A leading boutique hospitality and restaurant consulting firm based in San Francisco has previewed food and beverage trends for next year in a new report, “The Pleasure Principle.” Calling 2015 the year of “I Want What I Want When I Want It,” the Andrew Freeman & Co. Annual Trend Report on what’s in and what’s out underscores a host of predictions, many centered around the massive Generation Y-driven marketplace. With Millennials now aged 21-plus, we’ve got new drivers at the wheel.

“According to Full Service Restaurant magazine, Millennials spent upwards of $90 billion dollars on food service in the past year, so it is no surprise that the hospitality industry is adapting to cater to this generation’s wants and priorities,” according to Andrew Freeman, president of AF&Co.

We’ll cover the extensive research results in a two-part blog installment. Below, the Food Trend Index comparing yesterday, today and tomorrow appears. The second installment of our report on “The Pleasure Principle” will cover food and beverage trends in the nation’s restaurants and bars, drawing on the theme that that pleasure-seeking guests are looking for “instant gratification, education and participation” in their food-and-beverage experiences, according to Andrew Freeman.

2015 Food Trends Index








Sea Urchin

Trout Roe

Kale Salad

Cabbage Salad

Banana Blossom Salad


The 15 Ingredient Cocktail

Old Fashioned

Cayenne Pepper

Aleppo Pepper

Marash Pepper







Asian Fusion



More details and examples come from the AF&Co. report.


Taco Mania

We’ve seen modern Mexican food sweep the nation, and now chefs are honing in on traditional tacos.

·         Ex: Alex Stupak’s single-minded new concept in New York City, Empellón al Pastor, serves tacos almost exclusively (including a killer version of its namesake).

·         Ex: René Redzepi, arguably the world’s best chef, is turning his attention to the hand-held food with his new taco shop in Copenhagen called Hija de Sanchez.

·         Ex: Charleston James Beard Award winner Sean Brock recently opened Minero, a Mexican taqueria, in his hometown.


Scrambled Soft

First it was poached then deviled, now the new “it” egg is scrambled. And we’re talking way beyond breakfast. Scrambled eggs are what’s for dinner.

·         Ex: Hip Asian eatery Chino in San Francisco serves scrambled eggs with heirloom tomatoes and scallions under their “Snacky Whacky” menu category.               

·         Ex: Bobby Flay’s new New York City Spanish-inflected restaurant Gato offers scrambled eggs with almond romesco, boucheron cheese and tomato confit toast.


Spice, Spice Baby

These days’ restaurants aren’t afraid to bring the heat. And diners aren’t afraid to accept the challenge. With the proliferation and popularity of authentic ethnic eats, there is no shortage of dishes that pack a punch.

·         Ex: Uncle Boons’ Laab Neuh Gae near NYC’s Bowery is a spicy, chopped lamb salad that gets its serious kick from Thai bird’s eye chilies.

·         Ex: Flora (Oakland, CA) serves up a cocktail named “Carter Beats the Devil”, a tequila-based drink with a bird’s eye tincture.

·         Ex: Sriracha is the go-to condiment of the millennial generation, according to “Restaurant Hospitality.”


Flavor without Fat

Chefs are adding oomph to veggies with old-world cooking techniques instead of relying solely on fats to turn up the flavor.


·         Ex: Skewer something and get it roasting. At Narcissa (NYC) chef John Fraser roasts beets on the rotisserie for five hours until they are achingly sweet and deeply charred.

·         Ex: At Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant (Mountain View, CA) they turn to smoke to add nuance and depth to vegetables and even fruit, providing hearty meat substitutes for Silicon Valley folks.


Code Spread: Nduja

It’s spicy; it’s porky; it’s spreadable. The softer, malleable texture of nduja, a Calabrian spreadable cured meat, makes it a more flexible ingredient than other salami.

·         Ex: Nduja has long been a highlight of chef Staffan Terje’s extensive charcuterie program at barbacco (San Francisco, CA).

·         Ex: Blanca’s (Brooklyn) chef Carlo Mirarchi often includes nduja-stuffed raviolo among the 25 or more courses he serves diners at his intimate Michelin two-starred counter.


The Candy Man Can

Retro, artisanal and newfangled, candy is coming on strong. Sweet and unique, house-made candies can be the perfect way to close out a meal.

·         Ex: Ice cream gummies come in flavors like strawberry and mint chocolate at Amé Amé in New York City.

·         Ex: The Simple Farm (Scottsdale, AZ) makes award-winning goat’s milk caramels with sea salt and bourbon vanilla.


Mr. Softy

Don’t call it ice cream. Soft serve is popping up on dessert menus all over the country. Seasonal flavors, innovative sundae combinations and a plethora of sophisticated toppings make this nostalgic item decidedly modern.

·         Ex: The dessert menu at Alta CA (San Francisco, CA) is all soft serve sundaes with grown-up accompaniments. Our favorite? Sticky Toffee with chocolate soft serve, caramel, toffee and salt.

·         Ex: Chicago’s River Roast switches up their innovative soft serve offering daily. Recent flavors have included ginger-lemon grass studded with candied ginger and balsamic drizzled with quality balsamic vinegar. 


¡Muy Caliente!

Tapas and tapas-style menus have become the standard for our new sharing culture, but we’re having a love affair with the cuisine of Spain as we’re seeing traditional and modern Spanish concepts opening all over the country.

·         With so many American chefs training in Spanish restaurants like Mugariz and El Bulli, it’s no surprise they return home wanting to showcase what they’ve learned by opening their own Spanish spots. Examples are Katie Button’s acclaimed restaurant Curate (Asheville, NC) and BCN Taste & Tradition in Houston.

·         Ex: Canela Bistro Bar (San Francisco, CA) blends authentic Spanish ingredients and techniques with the ethos of California cuisine for a unique take on Spanish tapas culture.

·         Ex: The cuisine is also moving beyond fine dining and crossing over into fast casual with the introduction of 100 Montaditos to NYC, a Spanish chain showcasing high quality, low priced, bite-sized sandwiches.


Pucker Up

From pickles to vinegary shrub-based cocktails, we’re into sour flavors. It’s an easy way to add dimension to dishes and by refreshing the taste buds, it literally makes your mouth water.

·         Ex: The addition of mustards, pickled vegetables or even kimchi on a burger cuts through the richness of the meat and adds depth of flavor to every bite. E&O Asian Kitchen (San Francisco, CA) tops their burger with kimchi and Sriracha aioli.

·         Ex: Shrubs are created by preserving fruit with vinegar, sugar and water. The bracing beverage can be used in cocktails, like the Gunnersbury Park at Sable Kitchen & Bar (Chicago, IL), which is a combination of Great King Street whisky, rhubarb shrub and spices.


Flipping Out

With the addition of savory pancakes to dinner menus, chefs are proving batter is a versatile canvas for a variety of flavors. The trend will spread west to east.


·         Ex: San Francisco’s State Bird Provisions has a whole pancake section on their menu, which includes combinations like sourdough and sauerkraut as well as whole grain cheddar pancakes with heirloom tomatoes and roasted garlic.

·         Ex: Chef Robin Song’s Korean Late Night Pop-up at Hog & Rocks (San Francisco, CA) includes a zucchini pancake, a nod to traditional Korean snacks, topped with jalapenos and served with a soy chili dipping sauce.


The Original Hybrid

It doesn’t get much better than buttery toasted rye, melty cheese and a juicy beef patty. That’s the beauty of a patty melt—part grilled cheese, part cheeseburger, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

·         Ex: You can only get the patty melt at Parm (NYC) on Tuesdays, but with its intensely beefy, dry-aged LaFrieda patty, it’s well worth thinking about all week.

·         Ex: The signature burger at Park in Cambridge, MA is a patty melt and it’s so popular that Boston Burger Blog readers declared it the best burger in the city.


© 2021 Coyle Hospitality Group. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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