What’s Trending in F&B? Bold Flavors and Creative Sips
NATIONAL REPORT—Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has released its fifth annual “Culinary + Cocktail Trend Forecast” and it details what will be trending in what guests will eat and drink. More than ever, people care where their food comes from, and how it’s harvested, produced and makes them feel upon consumption. In addition, travelers have a taste for the unexpected, craving bold flavors from far-flung places. Creative sips are also in focus with the introduction of mushroom-infused spirits and flavored alcoholic seltzers.
“One of the leading goals for Kimpton’s F&B team is to make sure our restaurants are not viewed as stereotypical ‘hotel restaurants’ or just an amenity for the hotel,” said Scott Gingerich, SVP, Restaurants + Bars at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. “No two Kimpton restaurants or bars are the same—each has its own unique concept, design and energy, and there’s no standard recipe book or top-down mentality. It’s part of our culture of empowerment to give our chefs and bartenders full creative autonomy more commonly found in the independent restaurant space.”
Scaling it back to the beginning, what makes a great cocktail or meal? Gingerich says there’s no one formula, but a combination of factors: quality, integrity and creativity. “It’s bound together by heartfelt service and plenty of ambiance,” he said. “Our chefs and bartenders are always on the lookout for new flavors and ingredients to bring a dish or drink to life, enticing guests with something new and intriguing. Our teams’ diverse journeys, upbringing, education and travels amplify the unique approach Kimpton takes to F&B.”
Sustainability and wellness are driving the whole foods and superfoods movement, according to the trend forecast. Gingerich believes it’s an important area to watch.
“We’re seeing a bigger appetite for offerings that fit into a wellness-oriented lifestyle, and with that comes a range of dietary preferences and food movements,” he said. “These preferences have led to a demand for more superfoods in dishes, and a greater awareness about where ingredients are sourced and what potential benefits ingredients offer. In 2019, we’re expecting the incorporation of more gut-friendly, fermented and probiotic-rich in both dishes and drinks like tepache and sauerkraut. Our bars and kitchens are also working with spices like tumeric, sage and holy basil, and proclaimed ‘natural elixirs’ like rosewater, camu and goji berries for use of superfoods that create dishes packed with flavor and nutrients.”
Experiential dining is here to stay. Communal dining and the concept of coming together to break bread with family, friends or coworkers will continue to be part of the F&B industry this year.
“It’s no longer about coming in, eating an appetizer, entree and dessert. Our diners expect more out of a restaurant than just the food itself and want a holistic dining and drinking experience,” he said. “From the lighting and wall decor, to the tableware and centerpieces, to the music and general ambiance, guests are looking for an overall experience when they come to dine. To satisfy the need, the Kimpton F&B team works closely with the design and music teams to ensure every element of the restaurant and bar is on par. For example, at Geraldine’s at Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, TX, we have a dedicated director of music and social programming who specifically sources talent for live music events at the hotel and restaurant year round, highlighting the importance of an element central to the city of Austin and, therefore, our restaurant and bar.”
Some travelers like to be adventurous when away from home, seeking out new and novel experiences. This notion is also spilling over to the F&B side.
“The culinary experience is one of the best ways for travelers to learn about and immerse themselves into a new place and culture,” he said. “In addition to travelers, we’re finding that our customers are more interested in trying something new—whether it’s an adventurous activity or adventurous eating. Kimpton chefs and GMs take more risks than traditional hotel restaurant operators, which our guests and diners come to expect and appreciate.”
Meatless Monday has morphed into meat alternatives becoming a daily option for diners. “The plant-based movement will continue to grow in 2019,” he said. “More than 80% of chefs plan to feature a vegan or raw vegetable dish on their menu, whether that’s a savory dish like spaghetti and beet balls or a sweet treat like raw cashew date cheesecake. The ‘whole beast movement’ is also being adapted for vegetarians and vegans with the ‘whole vegetable’ entree series, including roasted eggplant with eggplant caviar and family style vegetable ‘charcuterie.’ There are many ways to play within these food movements, but also have balanced menus that will appeal to different dietary needs and preferences.”
However, there are meat lovers that still want their steak. Meat-based dishes remain a trend as well. “While the plant-based movement takes off, 2019 will show more experimentation with offal-based dishes, such as monkfish liver mousse, trippa on bruschetta and offal and sausage arancini,” he said. “The uptick in these experimental meat-centric dishes shows that the plant-based movement isn’t stopping meat-lovers from getting adventurous as well.”
Sustainability is still a focus as guests become more informed and curious about where their food and drinks come from and how hoteliers are involved in the sustainability process. “They expect greater transparency into understanding where ingredients are sourced, what purveyors restaurants are working with and the processes behind making their food,” he said. “At properties, we’re seeing edible garnishes, room temperature cocktails, and on-site rooftop gardens—not to mention various operational best practices to reduce, reuse and be smart about energy and water. This helps create menus that focus on seasonal ingredients adapted in a variety of ways to showcase creativity and a sensitivity to preserving the local ecosystem.”
Gingerich shared two examples: “At Shaker + Spear in Seattle, the team sources beer that are all locally made—local hops, local yeast, local everything. This helps cut back on vehicle emissions (black diesel smoke) during transport. They also use and source local wines in keg form to reduce waste from bottles, labels and which saves cork oak, which is currently going extinct,” he said. “In Washington, DC, Firefly has an on-site rooftop garden tended by Leader Bartender Brendan Ambrose and is the inspiration behind the popular roof-to-glass cocktail program. Ambrose practices upcycling in the creation of the garden. The raised planter boxes are made from delivery pallets, and the soil is mixed with composted food from the restaurant.”
In terms of trends that won’t continue in 2019, Gingerich listed activated charcoal, anything deconstructed, pumpkin spice, molecular food and edible art.
What is he most excited about? “Anything fermented. Being an avid home beer and kombucha brewer, I’m excited to see how our teams will incorporate this into their culinary offerings,” he said. “On the culinary side, I’m excited to see the creative use of North African spices in dishes. This spice palette is inspiring bold new tastes and is bringing around bright flavors that are both floral and spicy at the same time.”