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Predicting what’s hot for 2019

It’s that time of year, when the tea leaves, crystal balls, Tarot cards and other psychic tools come out, and the predictions are made.

They are to be consumed with a giant flake of Maldon sea salt.

Baum + Whiteman, the New York City-based food and restaurant consulting firm, produces an annual, well-researched forecast that frequently proves, in hindsight, to be spot-on.

They note that menu prices are outpacing supermarket prices, an economic trend that will have a negative impact on the restaurant industry’s bottom line as more and more diners opt to cook at home. One reaction to rising labor prices is the continued foray into automated kitchens – yes, robots – particularly in the fast-casual realm.

Chasing on the heels of the company’s 2018 report, which called for a rise in interest in Korean and Filipino cooking, restaurant-goers will apparently continue to embrace all things sour. B+W also predicts that the meal kit segment will find future growth by venturing further into casual dining chains, supermarkets and other convenient platforms.

The report’s most entertaining segment is its “buzzwords” section, a rapid-fire roster that includes low-cal vegan ice cream, Zhoug (cilantro-based Yemini hot sauce), edible flowers, Khatchapuri (Georgian egg and cheese bread) and shiso leaf.

The National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot” survey taps into the hive mind of nearly 650 chefs.

Sixty-nine percent of those queried agreed that “globally inspired breakfast” (think shakshouka) will be the year’s leading trend. At 67 percent, “new cuts of meat” (get ready for the oyster steak) and “plant-based sausages and burgers” (64 percent) were the other top vote-grabbing trends.

The association’s beverage survey, which tapped the same chef audience, reveals that 65 percent of participants believe that locally produced spirits will be the year’s top trend, followed by house-roasted coffee (51 percent) and brewed-on-the-premises beer (50 percent).

Buyers for the 490 stores in the Whole Foods Market chain foresee an uptick in Pacific Rim flavors, from guava and passion fruit to mango and jackfruit. Snack packages will get an upgrade (prosciutto and aged mozzarella, for example), and frozen treats will move beyond chocolate and vanilla to embrace tahini, hummus, avocado and other nontraditional flavors.

Kitchen leaders are also officially over several once-hot trends, and plan to happily bid farewell to activated charcoal, pumpkin spice, edible dirt, molecular gastronomy and “anything deconstructed.”

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