The Positively Pizza Blog

Flavorful Forecasting: The NRA’s Top Menu Trends for 2017

[fa icon="calendar"] Jan 18, 2017 9:08:00 AM / by Dan Pecha

Charcuterie-board.jpgThe National Restaurant Association (NRA) is the gatekeeper for food trends, and their just-released What’s Hot 2017 Culinary Forecast reveals the up-and-comers for the new year.

Interestingly, many of the trends identified as “hot” by the nearly 1,300 American Culinary Federation chefs polled by the NRA are variations on — if not the same as — those topping the 2016 list. That tells us patrons like what they've been seeing.

Healthy selections reman a hot topic, so it’s no surprise that better-for-you choices and natural ingredients are among the NRA’s Top 10. Likewise, patrons continue to push culinary boundaries so feeding their need for global tastes ranked highly, too.

Let’s take a look at what some of these forecast-toppers mean for pizzerias:

Heirloom vegetables

Hear “heirloom vegetable” and your mind naturally associates it with tomatoes. Of course tomatoes are a natural fit on pizzas, but there’s no need to limit yourself to standard varieties. How about a pie topped with some Brandywine Pinks or Cherokee Purples? Try out some other heirloom veggies, too, like peppers, asparagus and eggplant — they’ll make interesting toppings on pies and flatbreads, or easy-serve crunchy appetizers that are ready to dip in a house-made condiment.

House-made condiments

Patrons seek authenticity. Pizzerias that go the extra mile to make appetizer dips like ranch or buffalo sauce, or even boosting pedestrian offerings of mayo, ketchup and mustard with in-house recipes will satisfy patrons and persuade them to pay premium prices.

Charcuterie boards

Invented by the French, charcuterie (meaning “cooked meat”) is quickly becoming a rival to cheese plates in American restaurants. Charcuterie boards feature various cured meats like ham, sausage and bacon that are sliced and artfully presented. These cuts naturally pair with Italian fare, and the combination of a low volume of food and minimal prep time make charcuterie boards a potentially high-margin appetizer option. Many of the premium meats are exceptional as high end toppings for pizzas as well.

Healthful kids menu options

Chicken nuggets, french fries and macaroni and cheese are standards on kids menus, but these high-fat, highly processed items are leaving a bad taste in parents’ mouths. You don’t have to deprive kids. Give them what they want in healthier forms (like Rachael Ray’s Crunchy Oven-Baked Chicken Toes, Food Network’s Spiced Oven-Fried Potatoes and Healthy Mac-n-Cheese). Don’t forget to tout these better-for-you items to parents — it’s a great marketing tool!

Street food-inspired dishes

We’ve previously blogged about how to Go Global with Ethnic Cuisine and shaking up pie offerings with some flavors from around the world. That trend continues into 2017 with street food-inspired dishes that give patrons a taste of other cultures. Sure, kebabs and tempura may not be a mainstream menu item for pizzerias, but as an occasional featured appetizer or limited-time-only offering, you can treat patrons and not burden your kitchen with extra prep work.

The NRA forecast is informative — and also inspirational. Following any or all of these trends on your menu is great fodder for social media blasts to induce trial. Announce an “old friends, new items” night where loyal followers get new offerings at a discount. It’s a perfect way to acknowledge “regulars” and create new traffic.

For more on incorporating food trends and profitably reinvigorating your menu, download our eBook, Recipes for Pizzerias. Click the button below for your free copy.

Recipe eBook

Categories: General Operations, Menus & Recipes

Dan Pecha

Written by Dan Pecha

Division President, Alive & Kickin' Pizza Crust