2019 Top Trends For Restaurants + Hospitality From af&co

2019 Top Trends
Israeli breakfast at Oren’s Hummus (SF) Photo credit: Tai Kerbs

The San Francisco-based boutique restaurant and hospitality consulting firm af&co led by Andrew Freeman have taken the pulse on the industry and released their predictions on the hottest trends that will shape the restaurant and hospitality industry in 2019.

This year’s trends report, Do the Right Thing: Stand for What You Believe In is a comprehensive annual report that identifies key influences in restaurants, hotels, hospitality marketing, food, and beverage. Now in its eleventh edition, af&co.’s top trends report has become an industry standard in anticipating market demand and consumer feedback. Compiled from extensive year-long research, the report is intended to serve as a guide to help operators prepare for the coming year.

The theme of the 2019 top trends report is Do the Right Thing because restaurants and hotels have been heavily affected by the tumultuous state of the world, and it’s driving the hospitality industry, like many industries, to reflect on its actions, step up, and do the right thing. From focusing on health and sustainability to embracing global cultures and supporting meaningful causes and partners, there’s a renewed energy and deeper sense of caring to do the right thing for yourself, others, and the world at large.

2019 top trends
ROOH (SF) features an elaborate tea menu and tea sommelier. Photo credit: Gamma Nine Photography

“The hospitality industry is leading the charge in creating the world we want to live in. Restaurants and hotels are gathering places for people to connect, creating the perfect grounds for people to come together, get personal, and embrace forward-thinking ideas,” says Andrew Freeman, founder of af&co. “The industry is speaking up about equal rights, food waste, health and wellness, and much more. There’s a lot to be hopeful about in 2019. It has been incredible to see the hospitality industry step up and do the right thing.”

In addition to delving to this year’s theme, the report highlights the hottest food trends, cuisines, food cities and more.

Here are ten of the 2019 top trends:

Do the Right Thing!

Whether it’s fighting for gender equality in the kitchen, representing immigrants, or embracing sustainability, restaurants are helping to create the accepting world we want to live in and are raising money for deserving groups through creative marketing initiatives.

Women’s Foodservice Forum February 2019 728×90


  • Cocktail for a Cause at Curio (SF). Curio supported the Calfund Wildfire Relief Fund by donating $1 from the sale of every Sphinx cocktail to help support intermediate and long-term recovery efforts for major California wildfires, such as the Camp Fire, as well as preparedness efforts.
  • “Bake the World a Better Place” bake sale at Bluestem Brasserie (SF) benefitting CUESA & The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market’s Foodwise Kids, a free program for elementary school classes that uses the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market as a classroom for empowering the next generation of healthy eaters.
  • Jose Andres‘ nonprofit World Central Kitchen (pictured below)
José Andrés Mentorship
Chef José Andrés (2nd r) and team prepare meals in Houston as part of World Central Kitchen.

Meat the Future: Cell-based Meat & Vegan “Meat”

Plant-based “meat,” including the Impossible Burger, is showing up on menus throughout the country. And this trend isn’t slowing down – we’re expecting to see vegan seafood on menus in the near future.


  • Restaurants are using the impossible meat in creative ways, such as the meatballs at barbacco eno trattoria (SF)
  • Vegan seafood from Good Catch (National)
  • Impossible Burger at Gott’s Roadside (Multiple Locations)

Dessert of the Year: Doughnuts

2019 top trendsSavor these treats… literally. Artisanal doughnut shops are popping up throughout the country and unexpected savory flavors and fillings are showing up in traditionally sweet places.


  • (right) Chicken liver doughnut with black honey glaze at Grand Cafe (Minneapolis, MN). Photo credit: Isabel Subtil
  • Everything spice doughnut at Doughnut Project (NYC)
  • Passionfruit cocoa nib donut at Blue Star (Portland, OR)
  • Potato doughnut tikki with spinach pakoda, yogurt mousse, and raspberry at ROOH (SF)

Globally-Inspired Breakfast

Get ready for breakfast around the world without leaving your town. Globally-inspired breakfast and brunch menus have taken off, including the modern Indian brunch at ROOH, Israeli breakfast at Oren’s Hummus, and Japanese breakfast at Cassava.


  • (feature image at top) Israeli breakfast at Oren’s Hummus (SF) Photo credit: Tai Kerbs
  • Japanese breakfast at Okonomi (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Italian breakfast at Poggio (Sausalito, CA)
  • Mexican breakfast at Fonda (NYC)

2019 top trendsDish of the Year: Khachapuri

Georgian cuisine is having a moment, and leading the way is the photogenic, Instagram favorite dish Khachapuri. Featuring a cheese-filled bread boat topped with a runny egg, the egg and cheese are mixed together tableside. To enjoy, guests tear off pieces of the crust to dip in the cheesy middle. Bread… runny eggs… cheese… what’s not to like?


  • (above) Supra (DC). Photo credit: Andrew Propp
  • Cheeseboat (Brooklyn)
  • Barbounia (NYC)

Time for Tea

Tea is a huge trend for 2019… but not your traditional tea! We’re anticipating a rise in moringa tea (a popular superfood), cheese tea (yes, cheese), and mushroom tea. Guests are expecting more from tea programs, prompting the rise of tea sommeliers and elaborate tea programs.


  • ROOH (SF) features an elaborate tea menu and tea sommelier.
  • Mushroom tea (Four Sigmatic)
  • Cheese tea (Little Fluffy Head Cafe, LA)
  • Sparkling matcha tea at Stonemill Matcha (SF)

Robotic Restaurant Revolution

2019 top trendsStay on the lookout for food-making robots! Silicon Valley-based food robotics company Chowbotics is rolling out Sally the Robot at airports, convenience stores, offices and more – serving up vibrant, forward-thinking meals via touchscreen interface 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Popular robotic restaurants including Creator and Spyce are further proof that robots are here to stay.


2019 top trendsWaste Not, Want Not

The hospitality industry is increasingly passionate about reducing food waste and finding ways to increase their sustainable operations. Today’s diners care that operators don’t waste ingredients, they want to know how and where products are grown (locally, ideally!).


  • (right) Amazing Pasta Straws, a company that creates sustainable straws out of (you guessed it!) pasta. Photo credit: Rad Bosselman
  • James Beard Foundation’s “Waste Not” food waste initiative
  • Austin (TX) food waste ordinance preventing restaurants from disposing of food waste in landfills

Digital Detox: Going off the [Hotel] Grid

Hotels are offering digital detox packages, allowing guests to lock up their phones (literally) in exchange for discounts. Everyone wins — hotels benefit (guests often use more amenities when they aren’t on their phones) and guests revel in the relaxing experience.


  • The Mandarin Oriental Hotel (NY) offers a digital wellness package that includes spa therapies to target back and neck strain from device use
  • The James Hotel (NY) offers a portable safe to lock up your digital devices, with the combination and timer set by the front desk team. Guests that participate receive 10% off their room rate.
  • Hotel chains including the Wyndham Grand have begun offering promotions to guests willing to give up their devices during their stay

2019 top trendsSeed to Table

So long, farm to table. Seed to table is the new trend! What does it mean? Chefs are working directly with farmers to grow vegetables that put flavor (not yield, shelf life, or uniformity) first. Leading the charge is Row 7 Seed Company, launched by Chef Dan Barber and his seed-breeder partners. By working together in the field and kitchen, they test, taste and market delicious new plant varieties to make an impact in the soil and at the table.


  • (above) Row 7 Seed Company. Photo credit: Johnny Autry
  • SPQR (San Francisco) works closely with local farmers to cultivate uncommon items

To learn more about af&co. and 2019 top trends, please visit their website.

Joyce Appelman
Joyce Appelman is the Director of Public Relations and Special Events for Total Food Service and previously the National Communications Director for C-CAP, Careers through Culinary Arts Program. An industry leader supporting education and scholarships, she has been instrumental in opening career opportunities for many young people in the foodservice industry. Email her at joyceappelman@gmail.com