The start of the new year is always a time for reflections on what happened in the previous year but also a way of looking forward to what might be coming next. They say it is foolish to make predictions particularly since there is a tendency for these to go wrong.
But as we look back at the previous year we can observe the trends that are likely to shape the food and wine world. Which of these will come true when we look back at the same time next year?
1. Buying tickets for a meal in a restaurant will become more common
Alinea and Next in Chicago have been experimenting with a ticketing system that allows customers to pre-purchase their meal at the restaurant for some time now. It is a completely different concept to what people are currently used to when dining out and it has worked.
When Noma tried it recently for its pop-up restaurant in Australia, all covers for the four-month duration were sold out in the space of seconds. Even Magnus Nillson, the chef of Faviken in Sweden has been using the system since last year. We expect this system to make considerable inroads this year in different places across the globe. It will not become mainstream yet but will completely revolutionise the restaurant experience. 2016 could well be the pivot year.
2. Tech meets gastronomy
We will see more technology in the gastronomic world. Tock is the reservation system that is revolutionising the restaurant world with its ticketing system. But we may also see the first restaurant opened thanks to crowd-funding. And expect to have a very personalised experience in restaurants as big data makes its way into restaurant kitchens allowing kitchens to fully personalise their service on the basis of your food preferences etc.
3. Deliveries of gastronomic meals
The number of companies that deliver restaurant meals home is growing. Is this a bubble or are they on to something? It is clear that until a few years ago, the take-away offering was poor but the unappealing ready made meals section in supermarkets may be an opportunity for enterprising restaurants. The jury is still out on whether customers are willing to fork out high prices for a ‘luxury’ take-away meal. 2016 should be the year we learn whether this works or not.
4. More respect for work-life balance
More chefs and restaurants will take the issue of work-life balance seriously. The shortage of chefs as well as the difficulty to find good staff has taken its toll on the industry and top chefs are also interested in retaining top talent. We have started to see the first signs that this is happening in various places around the world and in particular in the UK.
Chefs are closing their restaurants for longer periods of time to recharge their batteries and find inspiration either in summer or in winter (depending on the location of the restaurants). Some are even decreasing the number of covers and services.
5. More pop-up restaurants
Alinea in Madrid, Noma in Australia are the two high profile restaurant pop-ups launched at the beginning of this year. We expect many more chefs to follow as the trend to experience a new culture and to search for new audiences increases. In July last year, Gelinaz organised an ambitious chef swap which saw a chef visit and take over another restaurant. Can this be done for a longer period of time and in the form of a pop-up restaurant? The new Redzepi restaurant 108 is already using Noma (currently closed while the team is in Australia) to test its new menu. We’ve also seen pop-up concepts such as dinners served in the sky. We only need to be patient to find out what comes next.
6. Food scandals are here to stay
It has not been a good few years when it comes to food and wine fraud and we expect the trend to continue. The commercial pressure is such that it will be difficult to eliminate good practices. How do you defend yourself from fraud? It is not easy but you should always keep watch of the labels and if the price is too good to be true, you should in general be wary.
7. More casual eateries by top chefs
More and more top chefs are venturing into casual dining after being successful at the top end of gastronomy. There have already been many announcements of chefs that are going to open new restaurants, albeit more casual. Maybe the most awaited opening of 2016 will be René Redzepi’s second restaurant in Copenhagen. Today the top chefs in the world can be considered as brands in their own right and it makes sense for them to capitalise on their fame. For top restaurants, this is also a way to achieve economies of scale and combat food waste.
8. Fermenting our way out of food waste
Fermentation is an ancient art that is being rediscovered. Its a taste that many of us have lost though still important in some cuisines and cultures. Top chefs are using fermentation not only to respect the seasons but also as a way to combat food waste. Expect more to follow this trend. It is heartening to see that awareness is being raised about the problem of food waste in the whole food chain. We hope that this gains momentum.
9. The rise and rise of natural wines
Natural wines are in vogue not only in restaurants but also in specialised wine shops that are emerging to cater for this new demand. There is a lot of confusion about this category of wines, particularly about the difference between natural wines and biodynamic wines and what exactly constitutes a natural wine. The lack of clarity or rules about this will continue to make the distinction difficult. Is this a fad or will natural wines become more mainstream than they are today?
10. Is this the year that restaurants and wine bars really shift to wines by the glass?
There are no more excuses about not being served decent wines by the glass in wine bars or restaurants. Unfortunately, house wine or wines served by the glass in the majority of restaurants are pretty appalling but this is set to change thanks to the likes of Coravin, a system which allows you to savour a glass of wine without pulling the cork. Will we see restaurants serve their whole wine list by the glass.