I am a self-confessed trend-watcher. I love how our choices are influenced by what is happening in the world and I enjoy seeing how our everyday conduct influences business decisions and direction. This year, there is one influence that leaves no one and nothing untouched – especially not when it comes to food trends.
In 2020 we didn’t need the global village effect for trends to reach all corners of the world. Regardless of our political stance, financial position or location, Covid-19 affected us all and it will without doubt, have the strongest influence on trends for the new year – and an effect that reaches much further than health and wellness. While Covid and its related regulations have a direct impact on what we do and the way we do it, I am convinced that even when it is not part of our everyday lives anymore, it will stay with us for a long while. More than affecting our behaviour, the pandemic affects the way we think, feel and react. We all might have had a very different experience when it comes to lockdown and isolation, surviving financially, home-schooling…., but more than the inkling to start baking or a sudden mood for banana bread, Covid has made us reconsider our priorities and it affects the way we think about and do things.
Perhaps we shouldn’t yearn to go back to normal. Covid is here to stay and we should embrace a new normal. As in other industries, culinary trends are also a reaction to world trends. So what can we expect from the food and restaurant scene? What does this new normal look like for the culinary industry? While some of the expected food trends for 2021 repeat those of previous years, I think there is a yearning for authenticity that is even stronger than before. Those in food might not be embracing trends just because of expectations and customer demand, but because of their own beliefs!
Let’s start with the local focus. Environmental motivations might have had us shop locally, but now it is more than that. Supporting the local community is a very big trend “post” Covid and it shines through almost all other considerations. Sustainability is also nothing new, but now more than focusing on conservation and nature, sustainability has a holistic focus that extends to the survival of a business, being able to provide employment, support the local economy and playing a role in the social environment that extends to more than entertainment.
Covid has also reminded us of the authenticity of food – our food stories. Other than chasing ratings and getting hooked on cutting edge techniques, food is again about our heritage and history. It is about simple eating, celebrating seasonal ingredients. No surprise then that the trend is for more intimate, rural restaurants.
This gets me excited. While the travel trend for off the grid, authentic experiences have been with us for a while, I am sure going to rural areas with lower populations and fresh air will be an increasing travel trend. Being able to find authentic local eateries goes hand in hand. This also makes the restaurant experience accessible to locals and creates a wealth of new opportunities.
In a time of uncertainty, with budgets under pressure and with a definite move back to the basics, I think these trends make sense. With the hospitality and restaurant sector severely hit by Covid, it might be wise for the industry to take notice. I have so much sympathy for how restaurants have been affected, but perhaps now is the ideal time to find some energy and to reinvent yourself.