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With the fi­nal few months of 2018 fast ap­proach­ing, it’s time to be­gin think­ing about the trends that will to dom­i­nate the restau­rant in­dus­try in the com­ing year. Toufic Akl, part­ner at Hodema Con­sult­ing Ser­vices, tells us what to look out for in 2019, as we sharpen our knives and forks in an­tic­i­pa­tion

Last time we looked, there was a global bat­tle un­der­way, tar­get­ing gluten, re­fined sugar and dairy. This trend re­mains on­go­ing, sup­ported by two new, key phrases, which are ‘clean eat­ing’ and ‘en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity’. How­ever, pre­dictably, some ideas have also failed to pass the test of time, such as the trend for ac­ti­vated char­coal, which was used to in­fuse our crois­sants and lat­tes, blue cock­tails and wine.

Clean eat­ing

For lovers of all things green who want to take the con­cept fur­ther, plant-based foods are caus­ing a buzz

The healthy eat­ing drive has in­evitably prompted an en­tire range of vari­a­tions across the food land­scape on the theme of what’s good for us. ‘Clean eat­ing’ is the most highly an­tic­i­pated trend for next year, bol­stered by renowned chefs, such as the UK’S Jamie Oliver, who are cham­pi­oning the con­cept, which in­volves ad­her­ing to a com­bi­na­tion of cri­te­ria when pre­par­ing a dish. As ex­pected, fried and pro­cessed in­gre­di­ents are a no-go, while fruits, veg­eta­bles, non-re­fined sugar and plant milk are among the in­gre­di­ents given a green light. Dishes are then pre­pared us­ing healthy cooking tech­niques. With sev­eral clean-eat­ing pro­jects in the mak­ing in Beirut, mo­men­tum is ex­pected to build in this seg­ment.

Free from

The ‘free from’ trend has found its place in the sun, thanks, in par­tic­u­lar, to the rise of gluten-free ma­nia. Its pop­u­lar­ity will con­tinue to grow on the back of ever-in­creas­ing aware­ness about al­ler­gies and in­tol­er­ances. A move among some con­sumers to dras­ti­cally re­duce gluten in­take, rather than omit it al­to­gether, is driv­ing up sales of slow dough breads, such as the ‘pinsa’ pizza, which is eas­ier to di­gest than reg­u­lar pizza va­ri­eties, thanks to its longer fer­men­ta­tion process. Dairy also re­mains un­der scru­tiny, with a grow­ing num­ber of stud­ies re­veal­ing the ben­e­fits of go­ing dairy-free and in­di­cat­ing that adults don’t need lac­tose. More­over, re­search sug­gests that about 75 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion is ge­net­i­cally un­able to fully di­gest milk. Go­ing dairy-free is also thought to help pre­vent di­ges­tive dis­or­ders and en­cour­age clearer skin. The fi­nal vil­lain is re­fined sugar, which has now been linked to heart dis­ease, obe­sity and blad­der can­cer, when con­sumed on a daily ba­sis. Many have blamed the sugar in­dus­try for down­play­ing th­ese risks over the years.


We’re grad­u­ally say­ing farewell to pes­ti­cides, syn­thetic fer­til­iz­ers, an­tibi­otics and growth hor­mones. While or­ganic in­gre­di­ents have been around for some time, their pro­hib­i­tive cost was of­ten a de­ter­rent for many main­stream con­sumers. For­tu­nately, a global, booming mar­ket is fi­nally mak­ing pro­duce more af­ford­able, al­though the re­gion’s restau­rants still face a num­ber of chal­lenges, in­clud­ing in­ad­e­quate sup­ply and prob­lems ob­tain­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions they know to be trust­wor­thy, via the au­thor­i­ties.

Plant based

For lovers of all things green who want to take the con­cept fur­ther, plant-based foods are caus­ing a buzz. The ve­g­an­ism trend is now in full swing and booming glob­ally, even find­ing a niche in ma­jor fast-food chains, such as Mcdon­ald’s and A&W, which are now of­fer­ing a ve­gan burger. Pizza Hut has fol­lowed suit in the UK, along­side ice-cream giants Ben & Jerry’s and Häa­gen-dazs, which have added new, dairy-free and plant-based frozen dessert op­tions to their menus. Al­ter­na­tives to milk are also tak­ing the world by storm, with al­mond milk now edg­ing the long­time leader soya milk from the num­ber one spot. Given th­ese trends, cus­tomers can ex­pect to be able to re­quest yo­gurt, latte and even cheese to be made with al­ter­na­tives to dairy, such as al­mond and per­haps even co­conut milk. Plant-based foods also have the added bonus of leav­ing a much smaller en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print, which is cur­rently a hot global topic. And for those who still think that ve­gan eat­ing is bor­ing, look out for some of the creative dishes cur­rently mak­ing waves, which range from zuc­chini noo­dles, mashed cau­li­flower and squash blos­som risotto to zuc­chini crust pizza. Buon ap­petito!

Mediter­ranean in­gre­di­ents

If you’re not big on tofu but still keen to be kind to your body, there are plenty of broader al­ter­na­tives to the ve­gan op­tions. Mediter­ranean cui­sine is un­doubt­edly a cur­rent buzz-phrase, chalk­ing up a loyal fan base of over a bil­lion peo­ple glob­ally. Proven to be one of the world’s health­i­est di­ets, this way of eat­ing is lead­ing to shelves well be­yond the re­gion brim­ming with pomegranates, za­atar, sumac and turmeric.

More bowls

Another more re­cent trend show­ing signs of catch­ing on is food bowls. Be­gin­ning with the Hawai­ian Poke Bowl, the con­cept has now ex­tended its reach to the point where bowls of all va­ri­eties are avail­able all day long, with din­ers able to se­lect the ones that suit their taste and mood. While bowls usu­ally con­sist of veg­eta­bles, rice and sea­son­ing, some fea­ture chicken, beef, shrimps and even fruits, seeds and yo­gurt.

The ar­ti­san way

Ar­ti­san cui­sine is a phrase on ev­ery chef’s lips right now. For those still un­sure what it en­tails, this con­cept makes the care, ex­per­tise and qual­ity of the in­gre­di­ents a key pri­or­ity, sim­i­lar to the ap­proach adopted by an ar­ti­san work­ing with a wooden cab­i­net or a piece of jew­elry. The trend stems from a grow­ing de­mand among con­sumers to know more about the ori­gins of their food and their de­sire to con­sume fresh, lo­cal in­gre­di­ents. While the ‘farm to ta­ble’ idea, where restau­rants ob­tain their fruits and veg­eta­bles di­rectly from the pro­ducer, is al­ready a fa­mil­iar con­cept to many, the ‘butcher to ta­ble’ con­cept, which is just one in­ter­pre­ta­tion, takes the trend to another level. Ad­ver­tised as fresh and home­made, the range of ar­ti­san food and drink is ex­pan­sive, from juices and beer to bread, made us­ing nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents and pre­pared in a tra­di­tional way.

Pa­leo, pos­si­bly?

Draw­ing on a trend that has been around for a while, ‘pa­leo’ dishes are made from what is pre­sumed to be the foods eaten by early hu­mans, such as meat, fish, veg­eta­bles, fruits, nuts and seeds. Dairy and ce­real prod­ucts are ex­cluded, as, of course, is pro­cessed food. The con­cept has been given a luke­warm re­cep­tion by some, with its in­ter­mit­tent pop­u­lar­ity ques­tioned by sev­eral ob­servers, who point out that many an­cient fruits and veg­eta­bles have long dis­ap­peared. Nev­er­the­less, this trend could prove to be a pop­u­lar pass­ing fancy with the more ad­ven­tur­ous among us.

When eat­ing is a state of mind

It’s worth men­tion­ing that re­search­ing restau­rant fads this year has forced us to look be­yond our plates, and, once again, it’s all about health and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity.

Food waste is a big con­cern and one that is ris­ing rapidly, in­di­cat­ing a grow­ing aware­ness about food val­ues. Higher num­bers of re­quests for doggy bags to take home left­overs show that peo­ple want to act in a more re­spon­si­ble way when eat­ing out.

Re­spon­si­ble sourc­ing is also high in the trend­ing charts. Know­ing where the in­gre­di­ents on your plate come from makes a big dif­fer­ence nowa­days, with the es­tab­lished link be­tween the car­rot be­ing eaten, its pro­ducer, the com­mu­nity and the lo­cal econ­omy seen as a piv­otal part of the eat­ing-out ex­pe­ri­ence. Peo­ple are also giv­ing greater thought to sup­port­ing the pro­tec­tion of both plants and an­i­mals, and the wel­fare of farmed and wild species, while dis­play­ing a wish to cham­pion so­cial ben­e­fits. In ad­di­tion, they are show­ing them­selves keen to avoid con­tribut­ing to cli­mate change and dam­ag­ing or wast­ing nat­u­ral re­sources.


This is not a trend any­more; it’s here for good and restau­rants have got it. In­sta­gram has con­trib­uted to a food rev­o­lu­tion, with the mo­bile app shin­ing a spot­light on an ad­di­tional as­pect of food - its styling and de­sign. Col­ors and set-up are now as im­por­tant at times as the taste of a dish. The In­sta­gram el­e­ment has be­come such an in­te­gral part of our lives that some cooking schools are in­clud­ing photo classes in their cur­ricu­lum.

And what’s in our crys­tal ball?

Now that we’ve got 2019 cov­ered, there’s a few slightly more un­usual trends that could still find their way onto our radar in time. While pro­cessed food, sat­u­rated fat and sugar tend to dom­i­nate to­day’s snacks, fu­ture va­ri­eties will in­clude al­ter­na­tive op­tions, such as for­ti­fied ice creams, veg­etable desserts, mood­en­hanc­ing in­gre­di­ents and pro­tein­packed chips.

Brain food is also likely to make its en­trance in restau­rant dishes next year. Tra­di­tional sources of power, such as eggs, spinach and berries, will be in greater ev­i­dence, as well as less com­mon op­tions, such as turmeric, sage, lion’s mane mush­rooms and holy basil.

And fi­nally, ready or not, cannabis is be­com­ing le­gal in an in­creas­ing num­ber of coun­tries, which has given a num­ber of chefs, ideas and in­spi­ra­tion. Space cake, pot chips, happy pizza and love cook­ies are al­ready ap­pear­ing on menus in the US. La-based renowned chef An­drea Drum­mer has even pub­lished a book ti­tled ‘Cannabis Cui­sine: Bud Pair­ings of A Born Again Chef’.

Higher num­bers of re­quests for doggy bags to take home left­overs show that peo­ple want to act in a more re­spon­si­ble way when eat­ing out

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