2021 Food & Beverage Trends from af&co & Carbonate

2021 Food & Beverage Trends
Among the examples of the 2021 Food & Beverage Trends from af&co & Carbonate are: Reuben Sandwich at One Market’s (San Francisco, CA) from Mark & Mike’s Jewish deli concept. (photo credit: Hardy Wilson)
  • RATIONAL USA
  • Inline Plastics
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Day & Nite
  • Easy Ice
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • Atosa USA
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • Imperial Dade
  • McKee Foods
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Cuisine Solutions
  • RAK Porcelain
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af&co., a leading boutique restaurant and hospitality consulting firm and Carbonate, a creative services and brand communications agency, have released their annual hospitality trend report. This year’s report, Do The Hustle, analyzes trends that upset the industry in 2020 and looks forward to how each will affect business in coming years.

The title, Do The Hustle, reflects the incredible energy, stamina, and creativity hospitality leaders have adopted and how nimble they will continue to be as part of the 2021 Food & Beverage Trends. Candace MacDonald, co-founder and managing director of Carbonate, cites the level of creativity and drive behind so many in the industry as reason for cautious optimism, as well as inspiration for us all.

This hustling spirit is exemplified by passionate chefs creating pop-up restaurants, developing incredibly personal menus featuring under-represented cuisines, and by restaurants embracing completely different business models in efforts to serve their communities and generate revenue.

Disruption & Acceleration

While it often feels like our world was overturned this year, many of the underlying trends were already well underway; the pandemic merely accelerated them. Delivery, ghost kitchens and virtual brands were well established and growing before they became a necessity with the closure of restaurants’ dining rooms.

Alternative animal products, already a booming industry, continue to grow with new developments, products, and technologies offering alternatives to meat, fish and dairy which are more accessible, affordable, and delicious. 

  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Cuisine Solutions
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • Easy Ice
  • RATIONAL USA
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Inline Plastics
  • RAK Porcelain
  • Day & Nite
  • Imperial Dade
  • McKee Foods
  • Atosa USA

Equality & Ecology

2021 Food & Beverage Trends
Among the examples of the 2021 Food & Beverage Trends from af&co & Carbonate are: Quesabirria tacos from El Garage in Richmond CA (photo credit: Viviana Montano)

While Do the Hustle was the theme of the report, equality, representation and sustainability were unifying threads throughout. Shining the spotlight on systemic bias and sustainability will have a profound and lasting impact on how we do business. This means a greater effort to highlight and support minorities in the industry as well as to shine a light on lesser-known culinary traditions and increased focus on eliminating food and packaging waste.

Foods & Cuisines on the Rise

Although the report focuses primarily on larger themes applicable to restaurants and food service retailers, highlights include:

Food Trend of the Year – Quesabirria, a griddled crispy edged taco with molten cheese and beef or lamb stew served with chili laced consome. It’s perfect for this moment: comforting, made from inexpensive ingredients and a panoply of flavors and textures.

Cuisine of the Year – Chinese-American. A taste of comfort for people of all ages and nationalities despite where they grew up; and it delivers well. Expect updates with more transparency around ingredients and less salt and oil used in preparation.

The af&co./Carbonate team highlighted several other cuisines on the rise, including: Afro-Carribean, Singapore/Malaysian, regional Indian, and Jewish deli-fare.

2021 Food & Beverage Trends
Among the examples of the 2021 Food & Beverage Trends from af&co & Carbonate are: Paella kits to go sold by Canela in San Francisco, CA

Regardless of cuisine, don’t be surprised to find a plant-based restaurant specializing in it; plant-based eating is now so mainstream that you can find completely vegan Italian, Mexican, Carribean, southern, soul food, and taco restaurants.

A Shift in Business Models: Off-Premise and DTC

With restaurant dining rooms, bars, and offices shut down for months there has been a profound shift in cooking and buying habits. Restaurant suppliers and wineries were forced to pivot to direct to consumer online sales. Restaurants thinking beyond solely delivery or take-out created meal kits or sold pantry items, providing consumers, many not accustomed to cooking at home seven days a week, with time saving ingredients, cooking instructions, and hard to find pantry staples. This applies to drinks too, with bars and restaurants selling their signature cocktails bottled in single and multiple servings, canned, or boxed in DIY cocktail kits with ingredients and instructions. Consumers have become accustomed to these services and businesses need additional revenue sources so we expect this to continue long term.

Many restaurants will also pursue virtual brands, operating a second restaurant concept out of the same space; increasing revenue potential while keeping fixed costs low

While 2020 was a very challenging and emotional year, it brought out incredible creativity and community support that will continue to drive success in the year to come.

To see more of the trends, visit the Carbonate website.

  • Inline Plastics
  • Easy Ice
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Atosa USA
  • Imperial Dade
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Day & Nite
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • McKee Foods
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • Cuisine Solutions
  • RAK Porcelain
  • RATIONAL USA
Joyce Appelman
Joyce Appelman is the SCOOP News Editor and Senior Contributing Writer 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