2023’s trends help operators craft 2024 menus

Taking a look at menu trends can help restaurateurs plan for this year, address diner demand, and craft menus that maximize profitability. Technomic’s recent report takes a look at the last quarter of 2023 to give some insight into what’s trending on menus year-over-year.

Menu item counts have continued to increase in every mealpart, even as menu prices rose 3.7 per cent last year. Topping the list is desserts (+ 12.1 per cent), followed by entrees (+ 10.4 per cent), sides (+ 9.8 per cent), appetizers (+ 9.2 per cent), add-ons (+ 8.2 per cent), adult beverages (+ 6.7 per cent), and kids’ menus up 4.5 per cent. Overall, the average growth for menu items reached 10.3 per cent for the quarter.

The language used on menus also had an impact on sales. Health remained a priority, as items with healthy labels also saw menu growth. Sales for items labelled ‘free range’ rose 12.7 per cent, ‘natural’ up 2.5 per cent, and antibiotic-free increasing 2.2 per cent, showing that diners have been looking at their protein sources.

Paying attention to flavour trends can help operators attract attention and draw in new guests. The report showed the importance of nostalgic flavours like birthday cake (+ 31.8 per cent), cookies ‘n’ cream (+ 24.5 per cent), and cotton candy (+ 24.2 per cent) at the top of the list. Global flavours also influenced menus, with chicharron making 70 per cent more appearances on menus, carne asada seen 37.5 per cent more often, and jerk chicken emerging on 25.5 per cent more menus.

Flavour combos are also here to stay on menus this year, from condiments to beverages. Consumers are looking for tasty, craveable items that intrigue them from description to flavour. It’s not just about including these flavours, but how you describe them matters, too. Using popular buzzwords can get people talking about the menu, create excitement about new dishes, and attract attention online.

Looking at the top trends from 2023 that are continuing into this year can help operators offer guests more of what they are craving to get attention, boost sales, and draw in a new crowd.