Customers are eager to return to restaurants and reclaim a sense of community in 2023, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, which offers a detailed look at the topics, trends and products expected to drive restaurant menus in the coming year across a variety of categories.

Despite the popularity of off-premises restaurant meals and snacks during the pandemic, demand is high (70%) for in-restaurant experiences including socialization, celebration and culinary exploration.

“The What’s Hot forecast for 2023 is an evolutionary reflection of both pandemic trends and current economic pressures,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research for the National Restaurant Association. “Inflation is shifting consumer spending habits, and while there is a heightened appetite for restaurant experiences and connection, diners are laser focused on finding value. The challenge is how to fuse consumer desires for the new and trendy with their expectations for price paid.”

The top 10 hot trends for 2023 include:

  1. Experiences/local culture and community
  2. Fried chicken sandwiches and chicken sandwiches 3.0 (such as spicy and sweet-heat fusion flavors on chicken)
  3. Charcuterie boards
  4. Comfort fare
  5. Flatbread sandwiches/healthier wraps
  6. Menu streamlining
  7. Sriracha variations
  8. Globally inspired salads
  9. Zero waste/Sustainability/Upcycled foods
  10. Southeast Asian cuisines (Vietnamese, Singaporean, Philippine, etc.)

Consumers will be drawn to trending global flavors like Southeast Asian and Caribbean cuisines, as well as comfort foods with a twist and charcuterie boards. All of these demonstrate the type of satisfying, shared dining experience that more guests are expected to seek out in 2023.

With ingredient costs expected to remain high in the coming months, restaurant operators are looking to streamline menus and create dishes with new ingredients to preserve value for guests, while also providing value meals (particularly in the breakfast category) that draw in customers.

“Understanding changing consumer desires is essential to the success of restaurants in every community across the country,” says Michelle Korsmo, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association. “The What’s Hot report provides an invaluable lens through which operators can evaluate and adapt emerging trends to create dining experiences that stimulate and engage their consumers, and perhaps even push the envelope forward on what’s hot next year.”

To find its results, the National Restaurant Association partnered with the American Culinary Federation and Technomic to conduct its annual survey in October 2022. More than 500 professional chefs from the ACF and Association members with chef titles provided insights.