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Decades ago, restaurants were shaping what consumers eat out of home. Today, diners’ needs are the driving force behind global food trends. And now with COVID-19, the shift in eating habits is more evident, seen in what consumers are cooking at home and ordering for delivery or eating at restaurants.

Top 3 Changing Consumer Eating Habits

1: Healthier Eating & Wellness

In a study by Euromonitor International*, the long-term implications of COVID-19 on our eating habits is highlighted and it is expected that going forward consumers will be more mindful in their eating and will want to know more about the origin of their food. Making subtle changes in your dishes and highlighting on your menu the ingredients that support the immune function will reassure guests and excite them.

Immune-boosting and so-called ‘super’ foods are not new but have become more popular during the global coronavirus pandemic explains Chef David. “People are consciously looking out for dishes with ingredients that are known to support the immune functions, dishes that offer classic flavours with a healthier twist. For example, turmeric is known as an anti-inflammatory ingredient. Adding it to the syrup you would use in baklava not only adds a twist onto a dessert but is also appealing to diners.”

This growing trend is why Knorr partnered with the WWF to bring chefs the Future 50 Foods. 50 plant-based foods that inspire a more sustainable food future while maintaining great taste. From grains, tubers mushrooms, seeds and more, the Future 50 Foods can encourage you to cook more diversely and offer diners exactly what they are looking for.
Being mindful of food diversity starts with chefs and adding a twist to traditional dishes will benefits menus too. Some of our favourites include Shakshouka with Chickpeas, these Quinoa Stuffed Vine Leaves or a Tomato, Walnut & Labneh Soup.

Quinoa stuffed vine leaves

2: Indulgence and Comfort Eating

What we think of as ‘indulgent food’ has evolved, particularly when it comes to the restaurant experience. Take the time to consider if your diners come to you for comfort food, or for an experience they can’t get at home.

Not just limited to rich desserts, indulgence can be classed as appetizers or snacks, and with more and more people on flexitarian diets, indulgence can mean ordering meat that they wouldn’t eat at home when splurging on a restaurant experience.

“Our colleagues in China have reported back to us on what to expect in our industry in coming months, and it looks hopeful,” says Chef Joanne Limoanco-Gendrano, Executive Chef - Middle East, Pakistan and Sri Lanka at UFS. “Now that restaurants are reopening, they’ve seen people queueing to get their favourite meals.”

Chef Jo adds that this is because consumers want sheer indulgence after a long period of not being able to freely eat out at their local restaurants. Restaurants must prepare for this wave coming in the next few months. Why not put emphasis on indulgence across your menu? From carefully selecting the name of your dish, to choosing bespoke ingredients. These don’t have to be more expensive! Consumers want to explore food in different forms, and this can come in dishes that require lots of preparation that cannot be replicated at home.

3: Small Bites and Snacking

With more and more people working from home and staying in, there has been a rise in the stockpiling of shelf stable food items. Amongst these are snacks, revealed Euromonitor International in its review ‘Food and Nutrition in Light of COVID-19’.

If we look back further at the history of snacking, we find it has become more prevalent in our homes and pantries. In recent years, supermarkets have expanded their range of savoury and sweet snacks. Combine this with people grazing more between meals when working from home, and there is an opportunity to bring this trend to the commercial kitchen.

While the term ‘snacks’ is not common on our menus, we do often list small bites, appetizers, meze or tapas. All of these smaller portion-type dishes are gaining popularity and we can benefit from this increased interest from our consumers to try different dishes and “snack” between meals.

“This all new category on menus is an extra source of revenue,” explains Chef David El Bitar, UFS Catering Chef. “Offering items such as platters or make-at-home appetizers can complement your current menu and be a profitable upsell for a restaurant.”

Keep in mind that these small bites can be either salty or sweet and are also a chance to mix flavour combinations. Try creating bitesize versions of your most popular dishes or consider adding these Spicy Masala Croquettes, Okra Hush Puppies with Smokey BBQ Dip or even some Moroccan Chickpea Pops with Harissa Dip to your repertoire.

As chefs and restaurateurs, we know the importance of catering to our guests' needs. Now, more than ever, the landscape of food is changing and it’s important to stay relevant and adapt.