The Pleasure Principle (Part 2 of 2: 2015 Food Trends)

We present Part 2 of “The Pleasure Principle,” by Andrew Freeman & Co., the San Francisco-based boutique hospitality and restaurant consulting firm. This 2015 Annual Trend Report previews the hottest trends and predictions that will be shaping the hospitality industry in 2015. Highlights from the AF&Co. report indicate what’s coming next from the nation’s thinkers and makers in top kitchens.

Fun presentation by Executive Chef Christopher Manning, Thomas Hill Organics Bistro and Wine Bar in Paso Robles, CA, 11/13/2014 (Credit, Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

Fun presentation by Executive Chef Christopher Manning, Thomas Hill Organics Bistro and Wine Bar in Paso Robles, CA, 11/13/2014 (Credit, Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

Restaurant Trends

Passion Projects

Chefs and restaurant owners let passion be their guide, creating less formal places to reflect what they love.

·  Rose’s Meat Market & Sweet Shop (Durham, NC) may seem an unlikely pairing, but with a bit of sweet, a bit of savory, and ramen on Wednesdays, they reap the rewards of doing what they love.

·  “Come on in. Call your friends. Have them squeeze in…I want it to be everything I don’t find in other restaurants,” says Jody Williams about NYC’s Via Carota.

Rise of the Small City

Forget NYC and L.A.—think Asheville, Oakland and San Antonio. The affordability of smaller cities allows for experimentation and bold choices.

·   Chef Gavin Kaysen moved from the Daniel Boulud empire to open his own spot, Merchant, in Minneapolis.

·   Chef Hugh Acheson has long dominated the dining scene in Atlanta; he expands to The Florence in Savannah.


Limited-runs: A teaser to a full-blown concept or a quick trip to a new city. Either way, chefs aren’t afraid to take the show on the road.

·   Food & Wine launches the second iteration of Chefs Club in NYC’s Puck Building. Four Best New Chef alums on the list of heavy-hitter chefs-in-residence, including Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon (Portland, OR) and Erik Anderson, formerly Catbird Seat (Nashville, TN).

·   Heston Blumenthal, one of the world’s most influential chefs, moves 3-star Michelin Fat Duck from a village outside London to a casino in Melbourne for six months in 2015.

The Balancing Act

Living costs are rising, the debate to raise the minimum wage is raging. How do restaurant owners maintain a quality workforce?

·  As of October 2014, several Bay Area restaurants announced the move to a 20 percent automatic service charge in lieu of elective tipping. Earnings will be pooled and divided between front and back of house.

Apron Artistry

Chefs are turning to artisan designers to create durable and fashionable aprons to give personality to their chef’s whites.

·   Los Angeles-based designers Hedley & Bennett now have David Chang, Nobu Matsuhisa and Mario Batali rocking their custom designs.

·   Chefs at Spiaggia (Chicago) are outfitted in aprons fashioned by Made in Carcere, an Italian company that collaborates with non-profits to produce handcrafted products by prison workers—inspiring second chances through craft and artistry.

Food Curation for the Masses

Local vendors, artisanal offerings and celebrity chef concepts are the norm at airports, ballparks and malls to offer quality food in places outside of restaurants.

·  Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio opened his sandwich bar, ink.sack, at LAX.

·  Atlanta celebrity chef Linton Hopkins’s famous double-decker burger at Turner Field.

Eat, Drink, Play

Adding an interactive element to the bar atmosphere is good fun and keeps people drinking.

·   With a beer garden, bowling and bocce, Oakland’s Plank keeps fun under one roof.

·   Denver welcomes 6,000-square-foot RheinHaus, a Bavarian beer hall with bocce ball courts to keep the drinks and fun flowing.

Crowd Fun(ding)

Since 2009, nearly 3,000 food and restaurant projects have raised $41.47 million through Kickstarter. Small pledges can allow chefs and restaurateurs to stay true to their visions without the influence of private backers.

·  Kyle Itani and Jenny Schwarz were ahead of the trend when they used Kickstarter to help fund their Japanese-influenced Oakland eatery Hopscotch in 2012. Fun rewards like a customized scotch tasting and exclusive invites to industry night potlucks helped them reach their $20,000 goal.

·  Chef Kevin Sousa used Kickstarter to raise $300,000 to fund the creation of Superior Motors in Braddock, PA. Part fine dining, part community job-training resource and part urban farm—the space opens in 2015 to lead a revitalization of the ailing steel mill town.

The Sweet (and Savory) Side of Life

The division between the pastry line and the rest of the kitchen is fading. Pastry chefs are contributing to savory dishes and even opening their own shops to serve selections of sweet and savory items.

·   Pastry Chef Kaley Laird (Aveline, San Francisco) contributes to the dinner menu, including an avocado trio which features a savory avocado ice cream.

·  Maurice Luncheonette (Portland, OR), the brainchild of pastry chef Kristen Murray, gets national acclaim for its innovative pastries and savory lunch offerings like polenta clafouti topped with a farm-fresh poached egg.

All Together Now

Sunday Suppers become a time for adventurous cooking. By offering a set menu (often family style) chefs can tackle more ambitious and complex dishes and experiment with new techniques or cuisines.

·   Sundays at the Bachelor Farmer (Minneapolis) often mean whole-roasted animals and challenging dishes that need the time and attention of a whole day.

·   John Fleer uses Sundays at Rhubarb (Asheville, NC) to encourage communal tables with friends and strangers to savor family-style menus of locally-sourced fare.

·   Poggio (Sausalito, CA) offers Tuesday Night Supper, a series of family-style meals reminiscent of Chef Ben Balesteri’s Italian-American childhood family dinners.

Beverage Trends 

Who You Calling Shorty?

A cocktail indecisiveness solution. Mini versions of full-sized cocktails for those who can’t decide what to order or want to sample a few things.

·   Drink menu at NYC’s Alder offers “Shorts” of its cocktail selections for half price.

·   “The Littles” at Dominick’s in Los Angeles  are classic cocktails like Martini and Manhattan served at 3.5-oz. size are $4 during happy hour.

Sorry, You Can’t Take it with You (Except When You Can)

Bartenders add drama to their presentations by incorporating flasks into the mix.

·   Large format cocktails at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas are served in customized glass flasks that guests can take home with them.

·  Robert Burn’s Hunting Flask cocktail: Charles Phan’s The Coachman (San Francisco) is presented in a small metal flask, poured tableside over a large block ice cube.

Cider House Rules

The craft beer movement has paved the way for an influx of artisan ciders. On tap, in bottles and even in the can, these are easy drinking, sweet yet tart.

·  The Seattle Cider Co. offers their tart and tangy Dry Hard Cider in a 16-oz can.

·  At the Yardbird (Miami), the Porkchop cocktail plays on classic ingredients often paired with pork—apples and mustard—and mixes bourbon with house-made Dijon simple syrup, cider and thyme.

Gin Up

Gin in the latest alcoholic beverage to have its moment in the sun.

·   NYC’s Gin Palace offers only gins and gin-based cocktails with more than 70 varieties available to sample, plus their house specialty—Gin & Tonic on tap.

·   Spaniards love their Gin & Tonics; we’re seeing their influence on a proliferation of bars for custom G&Ts serving obscure tonics and artisanal gins.

That’s Quite a Package

Restaurant and wineries are getting creative, having fun with wine presentation.

·  Wine bottled in one-litre, old fashioned milk bottles. Vaso di Marina made by Portalupi Winery is on wine lists of Duboce Park Café and Precita Park Café (San Francisco).

·  Wine flights are served in test tubes at Wine Lab (Costa Mesa, CA).

·  Wine labels with bold names like WTF Pinot Noir and GR8 Cabernet Sauvignon will continue to rise in popularity, taking the snobbery out of wine drinking often associated with the Boomer generation.  

Finesse the Frozen Daiquiri

The Island Oasis machine meets the artisanal movement. Bartenders are creating house-made mixes with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and loading up the machine for positive profit margins and crowd-pleasing slushes.

·  At Brooklyn’s Battery Harris the slushy machines are pumping out Dark and Stormys made with toasted five-spice ginger reduction.

·  Palm House (San Francisco) offers a rotating seasonal frozen house specialty cocktail.

Into the Nitro

The next big thing in coffee is nitrogen. Flash-brewed ice coffee is placed under nitrogen to enhance its natural sweetness while diminishing its acidity. When poured, the resulting nitro coffee delivers a stunning cascading effect and rich, creamy mouth feel.

·  Seen in third wave coffee houses across the country—including Portland’s Stumptown, San Francisco’s Coffee Bar using local Mr. Espresso coffee and Minneapolis’s Spyhouse.

© 2023 Coyle Hospitality Group. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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