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11. January 2023, 6 min read

More tech and climate hero ingredients: 5 restaurant trends in 2023

Author: Birgitte Brøndum
A waiter taking an order on a tablet from two laughing restaurant guests.
A waiter taking an order on a tablet from two laughing restaurant guests.

Since 2020 restaurants have been floating on a turbulent whirlwind of constant changes that will shape the entire industry for years to come. We’ve explored some sprouting restaurant trends that are likely to rise and bloom in 2023. You can also read Finnish chef and restaurant owner Mattias Åhman’s thoughts on the trends.

Restaurant trends often begin as waves of popular concepts, ideas, techniques or foods. Trends might have carried over from the previous year. Or they simply pop up as if out of nowhere and spread as fast as butter on hot toast. Sometimes they disappear with the same speed, other times they stay and become so established that we forget how it all started.

One trend that’s on the rise is the wider use of restaurant tech. This trend exploded out of necessity due to the Covid-19 pandemic and hospitality labour shortages.

Restaurant tech is here to stay. It became widespread in the restaurant industry in 2020, 2021 and 2022 and continued with full steam right into the early days of 2023.

Let’s take a closer look at the state of restaurant technology, and a good bunch of other predictions for the food and restaurant trends of 2023.

1: More restaurant tech and automation

During the past couple of years, many restaurants have turned to technology solutions to streamline workflows as well as to weather the roughest of storms caused by the pandemic, labour shortages, and inflation.

Up until 2020, the restaurant industry as a whole (leaving out fast-food chains) has been reluctant to adopt tech solutions. This has changed a lot in a relatively short time. 2023 is likely to be a year where even more restaurants turn to tech to future-proof their businesses.

According to Restaurant Technology News, 55% of restaurants in the US plan to adapt technology in 2023. In Europe, we might not reach the same numbers, but we’re still heading in a similar direction.

Some restaurant tech trends that are likely to gain a wider embrace in 2023 are:

Contactless ordering:

Contactless ordering can be implemented and used in a wide range of ways. Making the menu accessible via a scannable QR code is a popular approach. A digital menu reduces the risk of illnesses spreading via hand-to-surface contact, and frees time for busy restaurant servers. Moreover, a digital restaurant menu is easy to update with special offers or seasonal dishes.

Online restaurant booking systems:

According to a Statista Survey, an increasingly big chunk of all restaurant guests prefer to book a restaurant table online. From 2015 to 2019 phone bookings dropped from 58% to 20% in the UK. 45% of the 2019 survey respondents replied that they prefer to book a table via an online restaurant booking system.

Waiter in a restaurant showing a tablet with digital menu.

Restaurant automation

Although pizza-baking and burger-flipping robots are now a reality, automation that involves actual robots, such as robot cooks and robot servers, still isn’t that widespread. Human-to-human interaction is a valued part of the restaurant experience, for guests and staff alike. Nevertheless, we’re still seeing things happening when it comes to automation.

By implementing automation, such as order taking, payment processing and data collection, restaurants can help improve the restaurant experience by keeping track of guest preferences, costs, and food safety. Furthermore, larger restaurant chains are also starting to see the advantage of letting robots help out with repetitive and strenuous tasks that rank very low on the staff’s list of favourite tasks.

2: Experimental dining experiences are trending

Another restaurant trend we’re excited to see more of in 2023 is creative and experimental dining experiences.

According to the latest hospitality trend report from AF&Co and Carbonate, two San Francisco-based marketing firms, guests are on the lookout for restaurants that offer more than simply good food.

The guests of 2023 want entertainment, workshops and engagement. Restaurants that are able to tie a neat bow around the dining experience by adding music, workshops, themed menus, and other exciting things will fare better in the coming years.

“People are willing to spend, but they are going to be looking for the value proposition of the experience. Engagement is the catchword.” – Andrew Freeman, hospitality public-relations veteran in San Francisco.

Source: New York Times, 2022

Among restaurants that are DinnerBooking customers, we’re also seeing many fun and creative events such as high tea, brewery tours, pizza courses and 3-course dinners with live rock concerts.

Holiday-themed dining events in the shape of Halloween parties with guests and staff in ghastly costumes, Easter lunches and glittering New Year bashes are also getting more and more popular.

3: Reginivores and climate hero ingredients

The regenivores are coming! Sustainability has been one of the rising priorities among restaurant guests in the last couple of years. But according to a recent article in The New York Times, preserving the current state of the climate is no longer enough for some guests.

Hands with soil in a planter box with small vegetable sprouts.

In 2022 the most climate-conscious individuals were often referred to as ‘climatarians’ because they adhered to a diet and lifestyle that was all about reducing carbon footprints.

Regenivores take one step beyond this by looking for companies and restaurants that actively do something to make the earth and its atmosphere healthier.

Examples are restaurants, such as our customer Restaurant Moment in Rønde, Denmark, that reintroduce carbon into the soil by composting food waste and growing their own vegetables.

Additionally, we might see a growing demand for restaurants and companies that adhere to strict animal-welfare policies and reduce the use of packaging material.

According to the market intelligence agency Mintel, “climate hero ingredients” is another term we’ll hear and see in the food industry of 2023.

Climate hero ingredients are ingredients that are healthy for us and for the climate — from field to plate. Some examples are teff, fava, kelp, and lupin beans.

4: Casual and affordable tasting menus

According to the aforementioned hospitality trend report from AF&Co and Carbonate, another possible restaurant trend in 2023 is more restaurants offering more casual and affordable tasting menus.

The report mentions restaurants in New York that are already offering 5-12 course menus for prices ranging from 47 to 76 euros.

These menus don’t only allow guests to have an extraordinary dining experience at a lower price. Casual multi-course menus also make it possible for restaurants to keep the food and labour costs in check while still letting chefs unfold their creativity.

5: Nonalcoholic spirits

In October 2022, the consumer intelligence company NielsenIQ published a trend report showing that nonalcoholic beverages are gaining popularity in the US. This is especially true for Gen Z consumers (born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s).

Nonalcoholic spirit being poured into a  low glass with ice and orange peel.

This trend covers beer, wine and spirits that can be enjoyed without any risk of hangovers. Of these three beverage types, nonalcoholic spirits grew the most, with an 88.4% increase in sales from 2021-2022.

This ties neatly with AF&Co and Carbonate’s restaurant trend predictions for 2023, where nonalcoholic spirits are highlighted in the drink section.

If we glance just five years back, the selection of good nonalcoholic beverages was limited. But these days, bartenders can choose from a blossoming selection of nonalcoholic spirits ranging from bitters and gin to bourbon and fruity aperitifs.

This trend is a move away from what used to be called mocktails. Many of these new flavour-complex drinks can be enjoyed for what they are and come in bottles that look at least as attractive behind the bar as traditional spirit bottles.

Sustainability is common sense: Mattias Åhman on rising restaurant trends

Photo: Mattias Åhman

We talked with Mattias Åhman, owner of the two Finnish restaurants Hejm and Fröj, and Finland’s chef of the year in 2017. Mattias shared his thoughts on current and rising restaurant trends.

One current trend that Mattias expects to grow even more in 2023 is sustainability. But for Mattias and his colleagues, that doesn’t mean things will change. At Hejm and Fröj, they’ll keep doing what they have been doing all the time; take good care of the restaurant staff, use local produce and avoid wasting food.

“It’s common sense. If you don’t take good care of your staff, you won’t have any staff. Full-time is full-time, and not more than that.” — Mattias Åhman, owner of Restaurant Hejm and Restaurant Fröj

When it comes to food waste, Mattias adheres to the same common-sense philosophy. According to him, avoiding food waste isn’t only something that makes sense for sustainability reasons.

“If you throw away food, you throw away money. It’s as simple as that.” — Mattias Åhman, owner of Restaurant Hejm and Restaurant Fröj

As part of their menu planning, the teams at Hejm and Fröj, talk to local suppliers to find out which vegetables are available so they can plan the menu around seasonal and local produce. Moreover, when it comes to the meat served at the two restaurants, they strive to use as many parts of the animal as possible.

Concerning the rising popularity of non-alcoholic beverages, Mattias shares that at Hejm and Fröj, guests can always pair their menu with alcohol-free alternatives to wine or beer.

Furthermore, they also offer cocktails with non-alcoholic spirits such as gin, all of which have been tasted and approved by staff before they end up on the menu.

Although Mattias and his teams are using some restaurant technology to improve efficiency and hygiene, he doesn’t believe we will ever see a restaurant industry that’s dominated by automation and robots. “Guests want the full restaurant experience with personal service, and that’s never going to change,” concludes Mattias.

A fast glance at food trends 2023

Some dishes and foods we expect to see on more restaurant menus in 2023 are:

Solo dining is another growing restaurant trend. Read why welcoming these guests is good for business.