Spritzes, funky flavors on Kimpton's 2020 F&B trends list

tables and chairs in a restaurant
Kimpton's 2020 forecast included eight culinary trends to watch out for in 2020. Photo credit: Getty Images/Relentless_one

Chefs are growing increasingly creative while catering to consumers’ changing dietary and lifestyle preferences, according to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ sixth annual Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast. Kimpton based its forecast on a survey of more than 130 chefs, sommeliers, general managers and bartenders from more than 75 Kimpton restaurants and bars.

Culinary Trends

Kimpton’s 2020 forecast offered eight trends to look out for in 2020, as well as some dishes, spices and ingredients that it found to be trending.

1. Alternative diets become mainstream: Diets once considered alternative are now the norm, so expect to see gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan and keto options become menu mainstays. According to 31 percent of chefs surveyed, it’s no longer enough to have just one or two of these options on the menu.

2. Not-so-obscure health ingredients: Alternative milks, plant-based ingredients and superfoods are now commonplace compared to still up-and-coming items like nutritional yeast, ashwagandha, collagen peptides and seaweed, according to Kimpton. As an evolution of last year’s trend, fermented foods with probiotics are continuing to grow in popularity with tempeh, pickled vegetables, infused vinegars and fermented dairy products popping up on more menus.

3. Plant-based everything and sneaking vegetables into every dish: Fifty-one percent of respondents predicted plant-based meat alternatives will solidify their mainstream status in 2020. Thirty percent of chefs predicted vegetable tartare will be infiltrating restaurant menus in in the New Year.

4. Love for Levantine cuisine: Levantine cuisine, including Israeli, Turkish and Lebanese, is predicted as the most influential style for menus in 2020, according to nearly 40 percent of chefs surveyed. S’chug, a Mediterranean hot sauce, and muhammara, a red pepper and walnut spread found in Turkish and Levantine dishes, topped the list for spreads and sauces in this year’s forecast.

5. Cross-cultural fusions: Kimpton predicted local, responsibly sourced ingredients that bridge traditional culinary lines will continue to grow in 2020. More than half of chefs reported incorporating cross-cultural fusion dishes in menus. Mashups include Mexican and Southeast Asian cuisine, French and Scandinavian, Cantonese Chinese and Peruvian (or Chifa) and American South and Japanese. Also expect to see regional and indigenous-inspired cuisine, including more Native American, Scandinavian, Peruvian and Russian influences.

6. Funky flavors and sweet on sour: Ingredients with sour flavor profiles like rhubarb, tamarinds and vinegar will grow in popularity, with nearly 23 percent of chefs selecting sour as their favorite experimental flavor. Diners can also expect to spot more exotic peppers like Gochujang, piri piri, espelette and Hatch chile peppers in their dishes, with one in five chefs selecting them as their top ingredient for 2020.

7. Restaurants with a purpose: Partnerships with local artists, distillers, farmers, purveyors, community members and more will be important to diners and restaurants alike, according to Kimpton. The social trends predicted as the most impactful on restaurant philosophies in 2020 included transparency across ingredients, sourcing and production, and policies to reduce restaurants’ environmental footprints. The company also predicted sustainability practices such as composting, incorporating zero-waste techniques and eliminating single use plastic items will be big.

8. Dessert Trends: “Grown-up sundaes” using locally sourced, often unexpected ingredients will be one of the top dessert trends, according to one in five chefs. Veganism will influence dessert menus as well, and 47 percent of respondents highlighted vegan desserts as the strongest sweet-tooth trend for 2020. 

Now trending: Dishes, spices and ingredients: Elevated ceviche using unexpected ingredients—from spicy tomato granita to pickled carrot to whipped avocado—was the top dish prediction for nearly one third of respondents. Unusual seeds like lotus, basil and water lily seeds were predicted as one of the trendiest ingredients according to 31 percent of chefs surveyed. Makrut lime leaves, pandan and black garlic, which offers a sweet, earthy flavor and a date-like consistency, emerged as top ingredients on this year’s forecast. Schmaltz, or rendered chicken or goose fat, will also be trending in 2020, according to a quarter of Kimpton chefs.

Beverage Trends

Kimpton’s forecast provided trends in cocktails, liquors, beer, wine and nonalcoholic drinks.

1. Inspired ingredients: Grilled, roasted and fire-blasted fruits, as well as tea-infused spirits and syrups, rose to the top of the trending ingredients, with bitter vermouths and wine as cocktail ingredients as runner-ups. Aromatic (inedible) garnishes were cited as one of the up-and-coming trends bartenders are most excited to experiment with in 2020.

2. Culinary-crafted cocktails: Bars will continue to leverage culinary techniques in cocktail prep, according to surveyed bartenders. Kimpton predicted 2020 will see more bartenders learning from chefs (and vice versa) as bar and kitchen collaboration increases.

3. Spritzes will reign supreme: Influences from Mediterranean regions, such as low-alcohol spritzes, will shape bar menus next year, according to 46 percent of respondents. Spritz culture will also affect coffee programs, according to nearly a third of respondents.

4. Liquor trends: Bars should expect to see the rise of alternative-grain spirits like Baiju, Shōchū and Soju, spirits that originated in China, Japan and Korea, respectively, according to Kimpton. Mezcal will continue to dominate in 2020, with more than a third of respondents choosing it as the predicted spirit of choice next year.

5. Whisky highballs: Whisky highballs—a trend largely driven by the popularity of lighter Japanese whiskies—were predicted to gain a cult following next year, followed closely by spiked seltzers and the return of the Paloma.

Beer and wine trends: More than a quarter of bartenders were most excited about sour beers in the year ahead, followed by hazy or juicy IPAs and high-alcohol kombuchas as a beer alternative. Next year’s biggest wine trend, according to Kimpton, will be the emergence of more natural wines, or wines farmed organically without adding or removing anything in the cellar.

Nonalcoholic beverage trends: Many respondents predicted coffee spritzes as the drink of 2020. The other top coffee trends for 2020 included nitro coffee on tap, cold brew alternatives and CBD coffee. Forty-two percent of bartenders surveyed were excited to embrace the no-alcohol culture as part of their overall bar experience in the year ahead.