Menu trends: Superfoods, popping candy and street food inspired dishes on the rise

By Sophie Witts

- Last updated on GMT

High street chains are using street-food inspired dishes to attract customers
High street chains are using street-food inspired dishes to attract customers

Related tags High street Restaurant

High street chains are beginning to use increasingly eclectic ingredients inspired by independent and street food operators in a bid to attract customers, a new study shows.

Foodservice consultancy Horizons tracked the menu changes at 120 of Britain’s high street brands over the past year including restaurants, pubs, fast-service outlets and hotels.

The group found that the usage of ‘superfood’ quinoa has more than doubled since winter 2014 and is now on menus at Nando’s, Leon, Hilton and O’Neills.

Similarly nutrient heavy amaranth and chai seeds are now being used in breakfast and dessert dishes at All Bar One, Pod, Castle Pubs and Le Pain Quotidien.

World foods such as Vietnamese bahn mi – a type of open sandwich – are on the menu at restaurants such as All Bar One, while the Middle Eastern flatbread khobez can be found at three high street brands.

“Many of these trends have been picked up and adapted from street vendors and small independent operators, particularly the more innovative, easy-to-eat hand-held dishes,” said Horizons’ analyst Nicola Knight.

“It’s clear that operators are working hard to offer customers something new and interesting, often including so-called super-food ingredients which satisfy diners keen to eat healthily.”

Kebabs climb

There has been a sharp rise in the popularity of Mediterranean dishes, with kebabs 50 per cent and halloumi 54 per cent more likely to be on menus compared to last year.

Horizons also found that Souvlaki and houmous alternatives including skordalia (garlic, pureed potatoes, nuts or soaked bread) and favetta (broad beans with olive oil) were becoming more widely served.

The Heston effect

Popping candy, a trend pioneered by chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, has also hit the mainstream with usage rising 170 per cent year-on-year at restaurants including Bella Italia, Zizzi and Revolution.

“In 2010 it was virtually unheard of, but its use has grown 170 per cent year-on-year as operators look to add some novelty to dishes and give their customers something to talk about [and] offer their diners a taste and sensory experience,” said Knight.

Gluten-free and allergy aware

The use of ethical terminology in describing dishes has risen 10 per cent year-on-year, suggesting it is becoming increasingly important to customers.

Sixty-three per cent of operators mention ‘allergy’ or ‘allergens’ on their menus, up four per cent from 2014, while the number of gluten-free descriptions rose 23 per cent.

“Chain operators have realised that menus have to evolve and keep up with trends,” said Knight.

“While they need to keep the old favourites on the menu it’s also important to offer customers something novel and interesting, something they may not have tried before as well as to cater for those that want to indulge and those that want something more healthy. Today’s customer is becoming much more adventurous.”

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