af&co./Carbonate Release 15th Edition of Their Annual Hospitality Trends Report

Carbonate trends report 2023
A sample of the trending food items for 2023 include (L-R): Hartley Kitchen & Cocktails (Atlanta, GA) Chicken Fried Mushrooms with house-made ranch dressing (photo: credit Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants); Baonanas (New York, NY) offers Ube Banana Pudding (photo, credit Paolo Salud); Lasita (Los Angeles) a Filipino rotisserie and natural wine bar was called one of the Top 50 New Restaurants in America by Bon Appetit (photo, credit: Jakob Layman); Ilé (Los Angeles, CA) is a pop-up offering a 4-course $120, or 9-course $250 Nigerian meals two days a week (photo Ilé’s Jollof Rice, credit: Katie Jones); and Hazie’s (San Francisco, CA) Go Ask Her with tequila, orgeat, strawberry syrup, lime, and agave serves 4-5 and is presented in a stunning clear etched dispenser (photo, credit: Hardy Wilson)
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • Imperial Dade
  • RATIONAL USA
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • RAK Porcelain
  • Easy Ice
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • McKee Foodservice
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Day & Nite
  • Cuisine Solutions
  • Atosa USA
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Leith Steel, Head of Insights at Carbonate, shares the 2023 Hospitality Trends:

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the annual af&co. and Carbonate Hospitality Trends Report. Our first was published in 2008—the year after the iPhone was released. At the time we couldn’t have imagined all the ways this would impact how people would find and engage with restaurants. 

The last 15 years have been a time of massive change for the industry, driven by both internal and external factors ranging from new technologies, to the vegan movement, to “me too,” and the global pandemic. These, coupled with inflation, labor challenges, supply chain disruptions, and the desire to create more inclusive and supportive workplaces, continue to shift the way the industry operates. 

As we enter 2023, technology is more important than ever, vegetarian and plant-based menu items are a must, foods once considered foreign are familiar, and guests are more discerning than ever—holding everyone accountable beyond just the food on the plate or service at the table.   

Read on to see some of our top trends for 2023, or download the full report


Hottest Dish of the Year: Maitake Mushrooms

Creative chefs looking for meaty alternatives to actual meat have long favored mushrooms—and maitakes are the new “it” varietal, taking the place of yesteryear’s grilled portobellos. Often served roasted or fried, the craggly surface makes for an explosion of texture, while also capturing any bit of flavorful sauce or dressing. 

  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • McKee Foodservice
  • RATIONAL USA
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • Atosa USA
  • Cuisine Solutions
  • Day & Nite
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • Easy Ice
  • Imperial Dade
  • RAK Porcelain

Cuisine of the Year: Filipino

Over the last decade, Filipino food has gained increased recognition. Popular pop-ups have become multi-store brick & mortars; Filipino chefs have won international awards or become YouTube stars; Filipino mash-ups have attracted large audiences; and Filipino-based Jollibee Foods Corporation is launching 300 stores across the U.S.

Dessert of the Year: Baked Alaska

Thanks to its tableside theatrics and show stopping presentation, the classic Baked Alaska is back in full force. Modern iterations may be super-sized to share, flamed tableside, or deconstructed.

*Mid-City Restaurant (Cincinnati, OH) offers a seasonally changing inexpensive Baked Alaska 

Drink of the Year: The New Seafood Cocktail

In the 80s and 90s popular cocktails tended toward sweet; in the early aughts bitter was big; now briny is back in style. We’re not just talking about dirty martinis, but the newly branded “coastal” cocktails that embrace oceanic flavors and ingredients, often with an eye-catching edible garnish. 

*Bluestem Restaurant & Market’s (San Francisco, CA) “Cioppino” cocktail includes salted tomato water, tequila, lime, citrus, serrano chili and clam juice 

Ube is Ubiquitous

Popularized in large part due to Filipino desserts, such as Halo Halo or bubble tea, fans love the pleasant sweet flavor and bright, eye-catching hue. The vibrant purple color has propelled this ingredient’s popularity on Instagram. Don’t limit it to Asian flavors or preparations—consider ube a purple version of a Southern sweet potato. 

Two Digit Tasting Menus

Distinctly different from the largely European, white-tablecloth versions more commonly known, the format allows chefs to express their creativity and to menu plan more accurately, controlling costs of both food and labor. Consumers love the unique opportunity to experience the breadth of a chef’s creativity—for a fraction of the price. 

*Lengua Madre (New Orleans, LA) offers a five-course tasting menu for $80, rooted in traditional Mexican cuisine

Nigerian Food Pops Up

Nigerian food is gaining prominence and prestige. Incredibly rich and varied, it often features rice, legumes, soups, and stews layered with aromatic spices and chilis. Signatures include Jollof Rice prepared with tomato, onion, spices, and fiery-hot scotch bonnet chilis; or Suya, seasoned, grilled meat skewers. Some Nigerian chefs are using fine-dining, dinner-party style meals as an educational opportunity to teach others about their culture; others are presenting Nigerian foods in novel ways such as tucked into tacos, or stuffed into soup dumplings. 

Cocktails for a Crowd

There has been an exuberant return to the conviviality of shared large-format cocktails, as people throng together looking for some fun and personal connection. But don’t expect the pitchers or scorpion bowls of the past—hip and happening cocktail bars are introducing new, aesthetically pleasing and interactive ways for people to share a spirited drink. 

Salted Egg Yolk: The Next Pumpkin Spice

Thanks in part to the rise of bubble tea and Vietnamese coffee, another Asian favorite has started to cross over to mainstream America—salted egg yolk drinks. The rich custardy flavor is backed by umami notes, creating something that is sweet, savory, and a bit elusive, drawing you back for more. Torani called Salted Egg Yolk the “Flavor of the Year” so expect to see it coming to your local coffee shop soon. 

  • RATIONAL USA
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • AHF National Conference 2024
  • Day & Nite
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • McKee Foodservice
  • Imperial Dade
  • DAVO by Avalara
  • Easy Ice
  • Atosa USA
  • RAK Porcelain
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • Cuisine Solutions
  • BelGioioso Burrata
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