Restaurant Association Dishes on Culinary Trends

Trends lists dominate headlines this time of year. The National Restaurant Association, which recently released its list of 20 culinary trends to watch in 2014, shares some tips for keeping a finger on the pulse of an industry.

Take a peek at the list of hot trends in the restaurant industry and it’s pretty clear: Consumers are all about locally sourced food, environmental sustainability, and nutrition.

That’s according to the “What’s Hot in 2014” culinary forecast, released earlier this month by the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Healthy food for children and gluten-free cuisine also appear on the annual top-20 trends list.

“Being a trade association, it’s very important to keep what the members’ wants and needs are top of mind.”

“The restaurant industry remains an extremely consumer-driven industry, so it’s very important for [restaurant] operators to remain aware of rapidly evolving consumer wants and needs,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at NRA.

To identify the industry’s hot topics, NRA surveyed over 1,300 members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The chefs are asked to pick what they believe are the “hot and trendy topics” from a list of over 240 culinary-related items, ranging from cuts of meat to cocktail-food pairings, Riehle said. The survey’s full results (detailed in the video below) give a snapshot of what consumers are concerned about across the entire menu.

“These are chefs who are on the front line of food preparation and development and have a very good sense as to where restaurant menus are heading,” said Riehle. “When you look at what the chefs say historically and what comes to realization, there’s very close alignment.”

Aside from the survey of ACF members, NRA relies on a strategic commitment to research and knowledge development to stay in tune with industry trends.

“It really was a board imperative many, many years ago that the association have a dedicated focus on research,” Riehle said. “Being a trade association, it’s very important to keep what the members’ wants and needs are top of mind, and then align that with the supporting research and knowledge development.”

While the trends list provides an opportunity to generate some media attention for NRA, it also acts as a guide for the association and restaurants nationwide.

The survey “helps to heighten and reaffirm the association’s position as a knowledge leader,” said Riehle. “Also, with almost 1 million restaurants across the country, it remains a very competitive industry. Operators are pretty savvy at leveraging what the research presents and immediately translating that into how they engage with the consumer of a daily basis.”

Does your association compile annual industry-trends lists? Share your tips in the comments.

Locally-sourced meat and produce is tops on the National Restaurant Association's "What's Hot in 2014" list. (Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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