Hot Topics

Data Essentials 10 Food Trends to know in 2021 and 2021 flavors

Data Essential’s 10 Food Trends to Know in 2021

At the end of 2020 is when we start thinking about the trends and concepts that will impact the food industry in 2021. And after the year we have had, the idea of a fresh start can’t come soon enough.

We are still in the middle of COVID-19 and different variants. It may take a little can mean a lot more, be ready for consumers to head back to restaurants and other food service locations again. They will be looking for the unique and exciting trends.

When you think about your plans in 2021, there are 3 macro trends and 7 flavor and ingredient trends to consider.

Here are three macro factors specific to the food industry to consider:

The Future Chef –The role of the chef has always been evolving, from the fine dining chef’s leading the back-of-the house brigade to the celebrity chefs with their own shows during the Food Network era. Now, as technology breaks down walls, the chef’s role will continue to evolve and become more personal. Chef’s who used Zoom and Instagram to teach classes and answer questions during stay-at-home orders will continue to use technology to forge a connection with consumers.  As ghost kitchens and virtual brands expand, a chef may be called upon to develop entirely new concepts and lead multiple virtual “restaurants” operating out of one space.

Modern Comfort – The year 2021 is all about expanding your definition of comfort foods. For an upcoming generation of consumers, “comfort” can mean a lot more than mac and cheese and burgers --- it can mean global flavors, new brands they grew up eating, and healthy options that make them feel better. Some of the comfort foods that Gen Z loves include ramen, baby carrots, tacos and avocados, options you might not find on a traditional “comfort food” menu.

Plant-Based Evolves – After explosive growth before the pandemic, the plant-based and lab-grown meat industry spent 2020 gearing up for a big year in 2021. McDonald’s announced its McPlant burger will go on sale in 2021, marking another milestone for the mainstreaming of plant-based meat.


Every year we look at some of the early-stage flavors, ingredients and dishes that we think should be on your radar. These options are somewhat new to US menus and retail products. They have the potential to make it big.  Seven flavors and ingredients to know:

Fermented Honey: Tangy and sweet, fermented honey takes a customer’s favorite food in a new direction.

Chicory Root: Chicory root’s profile has been growing as consumers seek out caffeine-free alternatives. A number of innovative brands have introduced chicory options to their menu or product line, which bodes well for future growth. Watch for it to show up in more baked goods and desserts in the future.

Sudachi: This Japanese citrus fruit is like a next-level version of yuzu, showing up in drinks (particularly cocktails) or as an acidic finish to Asian-inspired meat and veggie dishes.

Future Produce: Speaking of produce trends, a number of brands are developing unique produce varieties to grab customer attention in the age of plant-based cuisine and Instagram. Think options like Driscoll’s rose’ strawberries and Del Monte’s Pink Glow pineapple.

Carob: As one time carob was touted as a healthier replacement for chocolate, but now chefs and consumers are giving it new attention as they seek out more health-driven, natural, plant-based alternatives. You will find everything from carob flour to carob molasses showing up in drinks, bars, baked goods, and beyond.

Honeysuckle: foragers have been using this wild plant/flower to make syrup for years, but now chefs and manufacturers are discovering it as a next-level take on floral flavors like elderflower and rose.

Guisada: Move over carnitas and carne guisada is growing on menus as a rich, comforting taco or bowl protein. Typically made with beef, now “guisada-style” proteins made with chicken, pork, and seafood are being menued by chefs.         

Road Trip - How restaurants can reach visitors and locals on the move

ROAD TRIP!  How restaurants can reach visitors and locals on the move  

Summer is an epic road trip season. We are leaving the pandemic behind and moving forward. Seventy-one (71%) percent of travelers are saying they will rely on cars to get around this year. In preparation, savvy restaurant owners are plotting how they can promote themselves to get in front of visiting tourists and local residents alike.

 Here’s what restaurants need to know to whet the appetites of on-the-go customers.

Road tripping is on the rise

The nation is ready to escape lockdown, with more than 70% of consumers intending to travel this summer. That spells major dining dollars, as 96% of road trippers say they will stop for meals or snacks en route. How will they make their decisions on where to stop? Restaurants that have invested in prominent real estate need to take advantage of it. While their might be four choices at a busy intersection, not all of them will be advertising their presence.

Locals want in on the action

While restaurants are likely to see an influx of visitors and out-of-towners this summer, locals will remain a steadfast consumer audience. Restaurants are also finding that people continue to engage in flexible commuting patterns, even as some folks return to pre-pandemic routines.  With newly revised schedules, workers are no longer tied to a specific lunch hour or the most convenient dinner option. Restaurants need to expand their thinking beyond time-specific advertising. The ability to reach people at opportune times has widened. Having options such as curbside and drive-thru can help bring diners to the door.


As people shift toward a return to normal, restaurants will play a key role in enhancing consumers’ desire to embrace travel and in person entertainment.

How the Labor Shortage Could Affect Your Restaurant

How the Labor Shortage Could Affect Your Restaurant

The good news?  Labor shortages aren’t impossible to navigate, but they do require some creative thinking, perseverance, patience, and a hearty scoop of time and energy. Restaurant owners and managers must be prepared to shift their thinking, and, to a degree—their business, to attract and hang on to quality employees.

Though the effects of a labor shortage will differ depending on your markets and restaurant type, here are some ways the current restaurant industry labor shortage could affect your operations.

Guests might have to wait, and you might have to reduce your opening hours.

With fewer front-of-the house staff available to serve guests and fewer back-of-house staff available to fulfill on-and-off premise orders, your guest dining experiences could suffer. Restaurant guests hate having to wait longer than anticipated, whether it’s for a table, for their meal, or their check. Wait times are almost guaranteed to increase when you’re short-staffed.

In front of house, fewer staff members mean larger sections to work. With more responsibilities, your staff will be forced to budget more of their time getting orders, entering them in the point of sale, running orders, and getting payment, and less time connecting with guests over what’s on their plate or in their glass. You could lose that warm connection that guarantees a visit in the future.

In back of house, fewer cooks on the line mean longer wait times for orders to be filled. This will affect table turn times in front of the house, making you unable to accommodate the same amount of checks in a night as before, ultimately costing you money.

I response, many restaurants around the country have had to reduce operating hours due to lack of staff, cutting a whole day or cutting lunch service every day. This reduces operating costs in the short term, but also reduces revenue.

Profit margins could shrink.

Having fewer staff members and slower pace, you’ll decrease the number of checks you do in a night. With less revenue flowing into your restaurant, you’re left with a shrinking operational budget that will substantially affect your purchasing decisions.

The average restaurant profit margin falls somewhere around 5%. With an expected increase in labor overhead as wages increase, restaurants can expect their profits to take a bigger hit in the coming years.

Though a labor shortage could initially mean less spend on labor costs, as you lose employees and need to pay fewer employees to work longer hours, overtime laws will come into effect. Make sure you stay compliant and protect your business. Plus, if you’re providing a less-than-stellar guest experience because of being short staffed, your sales will go down too.

Staff could leave for something better.

For those who rely on the service industry as their primary source of income, it’s unfortunately normal to work long days and late nights only to barely reach the poverty threshold. Excluding tips, the average annual wage of a restaurant employee hovers between $11,000 and $27,000, with servers at the lower end of the scale and chefs at the top.

Today’s restaurant staff are motivated to pursue opportunities that offer competitive compensation, meaningful employee benefits, work perks, and a safe, supportive work environment. If your restaurant offers front-of-house staff standard minimum wage plus tips and your back- of- house slightly above minimum wage, staff might not think working at your restaurant will provide them with a paycheck that covers the bills. And thanks to the COVID crisis, many longtime industry workers have chosen to leave the restaurant industry altogether.

To combat the current labor shortage, restaurants are getting more competitive with offering employee benefits and new compensation models. If your restaurant doesn’t meet the workforce’s expectation, it’s easy for staff to leave and immediately find a better option.

Tips to Reduce Food Waste During the Holidays

Tips to Reduce Food Waste During the Holidays

Each year, the average American family of four loses $1,500 to uneaten food ---that’s about 1,160 pounds of food. With the holidays around the corner, it is timely to think about how we as individuals can keep our household food waste in check. How can we reduce food waste? We may not need the turkey or ham that serves 12 people when only six people are at the table. Many of us like turkey sandwiches the next day with a slice of pumpkin pie, we may waste a lot of perfectly good food if we overprepare and don’t take steps to freeze or store leftovers properly until they can be eaten. Wasting food is a waste of money that could be used somewhere else. Below are a few tips that can help reduce food waste at our holiday meals and save you money.  

Plan your holiday meal

Before you go to the grocery store or order online, plan and make a list to reduce the chance that you’ll buy more than you need. We eat some of the same foods and seasonings for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Buy them when they are on sale. Research shows that making a written list can help shoppers avoid impulse purchases, which may include food they don’t need. For turkey, one rule of thumb is to plan for one pound per person, or a pound and a half if you want leftovers. For smaller-than-normal gatherings, consider preparing only the favorite family side dishes to go with the main course. You might serve one type of your favorite rolls or dessert instead of several. If you want to prepare all of you family’s traditional dishes, consider cutting recipes in half if you are cooking for fewer people this year. If you do have guests who want to bring a dish, coordinate in advance on who is cooking which dish.

While preparing dishes, save the scraps for future cooking

Free scraps like vegetable peelings and meat trimmings for your future culinary creations. Use them later in savory broths and hearty soups to provide comforting warmth on cold days. Or cook the scraps to make other foods or ingredients. You can season potato peelings and bake them into chips, or saute’ extra chopped onions to make recipe-ready caramelized onions.

Store or give away leftovers

Place food in clear containers marked with the contents and the date. That can increase the chances that the leftovers in the fridge will be remembered and actually eaten. If you have guests who want leftovers, let them choose their favorite dishes so that their take away containers match what they really enjoy. Give extra cans of vegetables and pie filling to your local foodbank.

Be creative with your leftovers

Extra rolls and bread that are getting stale can be made into bread pudding. Try your hand at making homemade turkey stock with the bones or make turkey chili with leftover meat. Whip extra buttermilk or cream into French toast batter. Start you own family tradition and enjoy it for years to come.

Infant Formula Supply

Infant Formula Supply

In the coming weeks and months, infant formula will become more and more available as efforts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and government partners to help increase supply continue to show results. This is indeed a food safety concern.
As part of the efforts, imported infant formula that’s been reviewed by the FDA is showing up on store shelves and on the websites of formula companies and major retailers.
Because these products are new to the U.S. market, and therefore new to you, you may have questions about them. It is important to talk to your child’s health care provider for recommendations on changing feeding practices, and the appropriate formulas to substitute, as you consider your options.
Safely Increasing the Supply of Infant Formula
To increase the supply of infant formula in the U.S., the FDA set up a process so that companies that don’t normally sell their infant formula in the U.S. can request to do so on a temporary basis. Under the process, the FDA reviews much of the same information it does under normal circumstances to help ensure infant formula is safe and nutritious. The review includes:
The infant formula’s nutritional composition and ingredients.
Microbiological and nutrient testing for the finished product.
Facility inspection history.
Manufacturing procedures and controls.
Quality control procedures.
The FDA will also ensure any new infant formula products have labeling information about allergens and directions for preparing formula.
The process applies to companies outside the U.S. and to some companies in the U.S. as well. For example, a U.S. company that makes infant formula solely for export could request to sell its product here.
The FDA monitors online marketplaces for fraudulent and counterfeit formula products. When products that are harmful or violative are found, the FDA works with major online retailers to remove those products from sale on their site. Since many of these fraudulent products originate overseas, the FDA targets and examines these products at ports of entry. The FDA also monitors and follows up on information that comes from outside the agency, such as consumer complaints about potential counterfeit and fraudulent products.


Healthy bowls strike it big in What’s Hot 2020 chef survey

Healthy is hot


The bowl trend has been around for a few years, but it’s still hot, hot, hot. Chef’s ranked healthy bowls tops in the new menu items category. Healthy kids meals continue to be top-of-mind, also.       

Bowl meals are on the rise not because they fit important nutrition and culinary trends, but also because they meet other needs for both customers and operators. Healthy bowls are delicious, customized meals that combine all sorts of greens, lean proteins, legumes, squash, berries, seeds and other flavorful power foods.

Packaged in attractive containers with transparent lids that show off the vivid colors. These customizable meals are appropriate for either sharing or solo dining. Whether hot or chilled, they travel well and are ideal for take-out and delivery.

Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Food and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19, are thought to spread mostly person-to-person through respiratory droplets when someone coughs, sneezes, or talks. It is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food or food packaging, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19.

After shopping, handling food packages, or before preparing or eating food, it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together gently until they feel dry. Remember, it is always important to follow good food safety practices to reduce the risk of illness from common foodborne pathogens.


The Risk of Getting COVID-19 from Food, Treated Drinking Water, or Food Packaging is Very Low.

The risk of getting COVID-19 from food you cook yourself or from handling and consuming food from restaurants and takeout or drive-thru meals is thought to be very low. Keep in mind, food safety must be practiced at all times. Currently, there is no evidence that food is associated with spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

The risk of infection by the virus from food products, food packaging, or bags is thought to be very low. Currently, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags.

Although some people who work in food production and processing facilities have gotten COVID-19, there is no evidence of the virus spreading to consumers through the food or packaging that workers in these facilities may have handled.


Food Safety in the Kitchen

Use proper food safety practices when handling food and before, during and after preparing or eating food.

The virus that causes COVID-19 cannot grow on food. Although bacteria can grow on food, a virus requires a living host like a person or animal to multiply.

Currently, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads to people through food. However, it is important to safely handle and continue to cook foods to their recommended temperatures to prevent foodborne illness.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been found in drinking water.


Clean Surfaces

Regularly clean and disinfect kitchen counters using a commercially available disinfectant product or a do-it-yourself disinfecting solution with 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) unscented liquid chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water or 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water. Leave the solution on the surface for at least 1 minute. Before preparing food on the kitchen counter, rinse disinfected surface with water. WARNING: do not use this solution or other disinfecting products on food or packaging. If someone in your home is sick, clean and disinfect “high – touch” surfaces daily such as handles, kitchen countertops, faucets, light switches, and doorknobs.

Everyday Handling of Packaged Food and Fresh Produce


Handling packaged food

When unpacking groceries, refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within 2 hours of purchasing.

Do NOT use disinfectants designed for hard surfaces, such as bleach and ammonia, on food packaged in cardboard or plastic wrap.

If reusable cloth bags become soiled, follow instructions for washing them, and dry them on the warmest appropriate setting.


Handling and cleaning fresh produce

Do NOT wash produce with soap, bleach, sanitizer, alcohol, disinfectant or any other chemical.

Gently rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under cold running tap water.

Scrub uncut firm produce (potatoes, cucumbers, melons) with a clean brush, even if you don’t plan to eat the peel.

Salt, pepper, vinegar, lemon juice, and lime juice have been shown to be effective at removing germs on produce.

Top Restaurant Trends for 2020

Top Restaurant Trends for 2020

Plant –based everything, eco-friendly packaging, revamped classic cocktails, healthy bowls, zero waste and much more. Six hundred professional chefs in 12 food and beverage categories were surveyed to identify top trends.

The What’s Hot survey was conducted by the National Restaurant Association in November – December 2019.

Top 10 overall restaurant trends for 2020

  1. Eco-friendly packaging
  2. Scratch made
  3. Plant-based proteins
  4. Healthy bowls
  5. Creativity with catering
  6. Delivery-friendly menu items
  7. Revamped classic cocktails
  8. Stress relievers (ingredients that promote relaxation/relieve stress)
  9. Specialty burger blends (mushroom-beef burgers, etc.)
  10. Unique beef and pork cuts