Single-Item Restaurants, Ugly Produce, Nootropics and Other Trends

This year, the expert culinary team at Food & Drink Resources (FDR) gazed into the crystal ball for restaurant operational trends as well as food and beverage ones. And they expect to see some exciting shifts in 2019. Here’s their list for top trends.

Single Item Restaurants

Big menus are so…yesterday. Today, restaurants are scaling back the menu and focusing on what they do best, and in some cases, they are featuring only one item. Like Buttermilk in Orange, California, which only serves fried chicken and the fixins, and  Yume Ga Arukara in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which only serves udon.


Get Rid of Plastics

Gen Z and beyond do not want to see anything plastic that is not reusable. Restaurants know this. That’s why so many aren’t offering straws these days. (That may have seemed like an overnight change, but it’s actually been in the works since 2010 thanks to a problem-solving 9-year-old.)

Find a Use For Ugly Produce

Not all produce falls off the tree looking symmetrical and blemish-free. While you know that is common sense, consumers have become conditioned to seeing their produce merchandized to the point of perfection. But what happens to the rejects? According to this article, rejected produce goes to animal feed, compost, or the landfill, with the true amount in the landfill unknown.  Chefs and buyers with flexibility in what they purchase are taking a stand and choosing ugly produce. Check out Food Maven in Denver (and others) that are making a business out of unwanted food.

Self-Serve Kiosks

If you’ve stepped into a McDonald’s recently, you’ve noticed the kiosks. They are coming to many more fast food—and fast casual— restaurants very soon.

Server Station at the Center

During a recent trip to Stockholm, the FDR culinary team got a chance to indulge at Boqueria, a Spanish restaurant. It was a true case study in restaurant design.


We particularly liked the server station at the center of the dining room. We’re accustomed to the open kitchen format, and this had a similar feel.

Calorie Counts on Menus

After years of threatening to enforce a mandatory nutrition analysis rule, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finally followed through. As of May 2018, restaurants with 20 or more locations must provide a calorie count on menus and menu boards and detailed nutrition analysis (more than just calorie count) to a customer upon request. Now that bigger restaurants will be forced to comply, you can expect the smaller, local restaurants to follow suit. (By the way, FDR provides a restaurant nutrition analysis service.)

ALL CAPS, all lowercase

In all our research, we couldn’t help but notice how many restaurants are choosing names using all uppercase and all lowercase letters—for example, noma, xtebarri, MAYDĀN, BOQUERIA, and DŌ. Turns out naming conventions follow trends, too.

The team also has their pulse on food and beverage trends as they work with clients to develop menus consumers will want to enjoy 12 to 18 months from now. Here are some trends they feel have sticking power for 2019.

Loaded Cocktails

Pardon the pun. What we really mean to say is that cocktails loaded with over-the-top garnishes are IN. Lime wedges are OUT. Look for fruit-filled glasses along with unique flavor combos on sticks.


Israeli Inspired Fare

Mintel reports that 66 percent of US consumers are interested in Middle Eastern foods. We’d go even further to say that consumers are really into Israeli fare—think dates, pistachios, and mint especially.

This fits with the continued trend toward veg-centric dishes and healthier eating. Chefs like Alon Shaya—who opened the James Beard Award Winning Restaurant, Shaya in New Orleans— are really onto something we dig.

Where to eat it: In addition to Shaya, check out Zahav in Philadelphia and Safta in Denver.

Wild Greens

We’ve been griping about kale for years and welcome the addition of wild greens on the plate. We especially like dandelion, mustard, and chicory greens.


Fermented Everything

Speaking of those greens—even those are fermented these days. Our favorite: fermented turnip greens. We have also enjoyed fermented mushrooms. The list of fermented foods goes on (and on). We should know. We can’t stop talking about it.

Life-Affirming Butter

On the subject of fermentation…cultured butter will change your life. Because it is cultured, the lactobacillus (good bacteria) creates a complex creamy and acidic flavor that is unlike other butter.

Where to eat it: xtebarri near Bilboa, Spain, or buy it online.

Fine Dining Veggie

You can find vegetarian main dishes front and center at fine dining restaurants all over the country. Even our beloved noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, went vegetarian for months this year with a celeriac schwarma dish.



These days, there’s buzz around functional ingredients. Functional = food that supports your body’s health or your mind’s health. Nootropics are ingredients that could serve as memory enhancers. You are likely already eating some of these nootropic foods but be prepared to learn more about how eggs, extra virgin olive oil, blueberries, and other foods could improve your brain function.

CBD Cocktails and Coffee Drinks

Some could argue that cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid found in cannabis that does not get you high, is beneficial for your brain health and general well being, and some could argue it’s not beneficial. Either way, it’s happening in states where medical and/or recreational cannabis is legal and establishments can legally serve infused drinks.

New York is one such state. There are a number of bars and restaurants that create 21+ beverages with CBD-infused sugar.

Where to drink it: Bubby’s in Tribeca, New York City

Georgian Cuisine and Wine

With the new interest in Georgian (the country, not the state) orange wines, it naturally follows for the cuisine to emerge. For the last two years on our trends list, we have mentioned khachapuri, a Georgian-style pizza that is available at Compass Rose in D.C. Now the owner of Compass Rose has evolved from Georgian street food to a Georgian influenced full range menu at one of the newest “best restaurants” in the country at MAYDĀN.


More Authentic and Creative Latin Cuisine

We are not talking about burritos or tacos! We are talking about Peruvian, Guatemalan, and Mexican dishes that grandma still likes to make.

Not Your Ordinary Ice Cream

Clearly, ice cream will never go out of style. Currently, we’re still enjoying rolled ice cream, top photo, cookie dough and ice cream combos (check out DŌ in NYC and Mixing Bowl in Aurora, Colorado), and—our #1 pick—malasadas (fried dough coated in sugar) mix-ins at the Pipeline Bakery in Honolulu.