More chicken sandwiches and other restaurant trends for 2023

After years of losing business to pickup and delivery, restaurant dining rooms are a thing again.

That assertion comes from the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot 2023 Culinary Forecast.”

The National Restaurant Association’s “Hot Trends” survey for 2023 predicts a high interest in Sriracha. (2014 photo by Watchara Phomicinda, Pasadena Star News/SCNG)

Meat on Ocean in Santa Monica serves charcuterie. (Photo courtesy of Meat on Ocean)

Wingstop introduced 12 chicken sandwiches at once in August. (Photo courtesy of Wingstop)



“All restaurant dining is local, and according to the survey, more than 70% of respondents agree that customers want to gather on-premises — as hungry for connection as sustainance,” the survey reads.

It draws on the expertise of more than 500 professionals from the American Culinary Federation, a professional organization for chefs and cooks, according to its introductions. Participants weighed in on what they see as menu trends for the coming year.

The results are presented in a list of overall trends and then broken down into several categories.

Here are some of the key findings.

Dining in

Customers are eager to connect over dining experiences, shared meals that can’t be easily replicated at home, according to the survey.

That thinking seems to be shared by Black Angus Steakhouse, which has a dropdown menu for experiences on its website. They include happy hours and weekly specials. In May, the Sherman Oaks-based chain introduced a live music program bringing local bands into its restaurants on Friday nights.

Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar has a beer club with special events such as pairings nights such as the upcoming Bacon Experience, Jan. 30-Feb. 2 in restaurants throughout the Costa Mesa chain.

Chicken sandwiches

Nashville hot chicken has become so mainstream that Iowa and Kentucky football players devoured it in an eating contest before facing off in the Music City Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

Although the “chicken sandwich wars” began in 2019, the trend remains so hot that the association gave it the No. 2 spot on its overall list and two spots on its luncheon list: “Chicken Sandwich 3.0,” featuring spicy and sweet heat fusion flavors, and fried chicken sandwiches.

Chicken sandwiches were big at Wingstop, which debuted 12 flavors at once in late August. They included Lemon Pepper Punch and Mango Habanero heat.

Hot Honey, selected by gourmet syrup company Monin as its 2023 flavor of the year, made appearances at such chains as Wendy’s and Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, a full service chain.

Charcuterie boards

Plates of cured meats and cheese tap into the desire for a shared dining experience, according to the association.

Among restaurants that serve them are Meat on Ocean in Santa Monica, which charges $44 for a five-item board and $53 for a seven item board, according to its website. The Rustik Fork in Riverside charges $35 for a board with assorted meats, cheeses, fruit and nuts, according to its brunch menu.

Graze Craze, a chain founded in Florida 2020, specializes in customized charcuterie boards and catering. It is planning to open California locations in Chula Vista and Modesto.

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Menu streamlining

The association says restaurants are still coping with fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic, including supply chain issues and staffing shortages. Recent challenges included a turkey shortage that saw some restaurants taking it off their menus and charging upwards of $20 for roast turkey dinners during the holidays.

BentoBox, a marketing platform for restaurants, also included streamlining on its list of top trends for 2023, predicting eateries will meet the challenge with reduced menus and service. It said some might opt to have shorter hours for their dining rooms but keep their kitchens open for online orders.

Sriracha variations

The Thai paste is part of a trend toward Southeast Asian cuisine.

Sriracha is traditionally made with chili, sugar, salt, vinegar and garlic. A brand many Southern Californians are familiar with is Huy Fong Foods of Irwindale, but it’s available as a rub, in mayonnaise or with other extra ingredients.

Other tidbits

Emerging trends to watch include Chinese street foods such as rou jia mo, also called a Chinese hamburger or jianbing, a breakfast item made with deep-fried crackers.

Experts also noted an interest in sandwiches made with Indian flatbreads such as paratha and roti, or with pastry buns and crepes.

Sweets to watch included alfajores from South  America and haupia, Hawaiian coconut pudding.

Beverage trends include low- or no-alcohol cocktails, and interest in hard seltzers from smaller local brewers continues to grow.

Interest was cooling in such fads as ranch water, a summer cocktail, and pickle pizza.




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