Ten building blocks for the menu of the future
Plant forward, personalized, and value driven
Written by Jelle Steenbergen on Thursday 16 January 2020
What does a future menu look like? Food Inspiration sees big changes on the horizon. These are the ten building blocks for the future menu.
1. Plant forward
The understanding that eating too many animal products has serious negative repercussions for the global climate is now understood by many. The menu of the future is healthy for people, animals, and the planet at large. It’s a diet that consists of mostly plants, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. Animal proteins are a side dish. If we do decide to eat meat, then we will prefer it to be lab-grown.
Emerging technologies will open up new possibilities for personalizing or diet. Nutritional advice will be precision engineered and tuned to the individual. Insights as to what’s best for you are based on your DNA and your microbiome. Caterers in healthcare and business alike will take on the role of health coach.
The menu of the future is hyperspecialized. Concepts focus on a limited range of offerings, but choose to excel in their narrow field. A menu without a signature dish or instant classic is bound to be interchangeable. Products, too, are headed for high concept. The uniform mass market will be replaced by a myriad of niches.
The medical world is finally waking up. Lifestyle-based medicine is on the rise. Because what we eat—and more importantly don’t eat—determines how we feel. We’re seeing a rise of function over flavor, wherein what a meal does is equal or more important than how it tastes: food is medicine. Ultraprocessed food, fat, salt, and sugar are under increasing scrutiny on any menu. Alcohol is turning from hero into zero.
Industrial buzzwords such as ‘light’, ‘low carb’, and ‘fat free’ used to represent solutions, but are now part of the problem. When guests look at a menu they prefer real, fresh, local, and unprocessed food. The route from farm to table is growing ever shorter.
Radical transparency will become the new normal. Producers, caterers, and chefs that aren’t honest about sourcing, preparation, or nutritional value are losing sympathy. Systems intended to measure the balance between nutritional value and caloric intake are becoming more accurate by the day.
The competition for competent staff will become more important than fighting for the guest’s attention. Four day work weeks, fair wages, and a non-toxic culture: restaurants with a winning menu treat their staff right. The #FairKitchens movement is sign of bigger changes to come. No menu can be good without a just work environment.
We eat where we want, when we want, and what we want. The trinity of breakfast, lunch, and dinner is being replaced by multiple smaller meals throughout the day. All day breakfast or lunch will be commonplace. The on the go consumer eats on their way at any time of day, and their choices are trending healthy.
The next step for sustainability is circularity. In this new way of doing business the production chain looks like the shortest possible closed loop, eliminating any and all waste. What would have been discarded is made into new products. Everything from the dirty water from the dishwasher to the broken furnishings is given a new purpose. If we decide to eat meat or fish, we make sure we do so responsibly, using the entire animal. Because remember: there is no planet B.
10. Value driven
The menu of the future is driven by values. Our food is growing a conscience. Healthy food will be made accessible for all, through doctors, health insurance companies, and governments. The conversation around food will be polarised, with loud voices protesting against culinarily correct behaviour. Despite this our menu will change: Plant based, with an occasional animal product, produced in a circular economy, and healthy for people and planet.
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