A Lasting Trend - Transparency and Sustainability
The people have spoken and restaurants all over the world are doing everything they can to accommodate accordingly. 2016 presents new challenges and evolving trends that are continuing to take shape as the restaurant space matures at unparalleled rates. Eating locally and sourcing ingredients from neighboring farms is becoming even more of a priority for restaurant goers and has had a significant impact on the way that owners run their businesses.
We’re starting to see restaurants take this trend more seriously as they create more offerings which were historically sourced miles away, now doing it in-house or at least closer to home. Now, it’s not uncommon to eat at a restaurant with rooftop beehives, herb walls, and in many cases, these restaurants are starting to acquire and maintain local farms of their own. Chef Jose Garces, a Food Network Iron Chef, is doing just that with Luna Farm in Ottsville, Pennsylvania. Chef Garces’s farm is just 50 miles north of Philadelphia, and serves as another example of the movement that is localizing food sourcing.
With the emergence of critically acclaimed documentaries such as Food Inc. and Fed Up, everyday Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about what they’re putting into their bodies. This rings true for patrons of grocery stores as well as restaurant goers. The change in consumer attitude has prompted chains such as Smashburger to make drastic changes, in this case providing chicken strips with unsweetened applesauce as a means of enticing health-conscious eaters.
The food industry as a whole is becoming more of a national and international concern as shown by Chipotle’s recent food safety crisis. It is also starting to affect legislation as Alaska succeeded in stopping the Pebble Mine from interfering with Bristol Bay’s famed salmon run. As more than 90% of the seafood eaten in the United States is imported from outside its borders, Alaska's monumental ruling is vital to maintaining the small footprint of domestic fisheries.
2016 will also bring a year of more adventurous eats, including offerings that include underused ingredients. This is somewhat of a ripple effect that is tied back to sourcing and sustainability. In some cases, chefs are creating menu items based on cuts of meat that weren’t previously prominent in restaurants. This has arised out of necessity due to the rising cost of meat and other staple ingredients. Shoulder tender, pork blade steak, and beef neck are some of the cuts finding its way onto menus as Chefs everywhere are looking for ways to cut costs while also differentiating. Former Meatball Shop partner Michael Chernow even branched off from the multi-location fan-favorite to create Seamore’s, a restaurant that offers under-used and responsibly sourced fish.
The bottom line is that consumers have spoken and restaurant owners have been forced to listen. The relatively new desire to know everything about what we eat has led to more transparency, which is a positive thing that comes with certain consequences such as increased food costs and menu items, something that has the potential to hurt a restaurant. Hopefully consumers’ desire to know everything will parallel an understanding of associated costs and everyone will win.