2023 food trends include retro cocktails, baked Alaska, Filipino food and more (2023)

Cocktails from the 1990s. Vegetables from the sea. A mushroom that looks like a chicken’s feathers. Avocado in desserts. And restaurants being driven to deliver “experiences,” not just a plate of food or a cocktail in a glass. These are just some of the food, beverage and restaurant business trends that culinary prognosticators — national and local — foresee for the year 2023.

Restaurants will need to offer diners a reason to come out for a meal, says Johnny Roberts, business and market development director for Isaac’s.

Roberts attends restaurant industry trade shows in Chicago and New York most years, and follows food trends through trade magazines and newsletters throughout the year.

Diners “want a restaurant experience and local flavors that can’t be replicated at home,” Roberts says. “Consumers want to be surprised” with flavors that defy their expectations, along with “unconventional flavor mashups and high concepts: Cold-brew smoothies. Nutella s’mores. Caffeinated chocolate milk. Dragon fruit.”

With experiences being so important, San Francisco-based food and hospitality marketing companies af&co. and Carbonate say in their annual trend report, restaurants will look to create more affordable, “two-digit-price” tasting menus — so diners don’t have to pay top dollar for a special chef’s-table evening.

In keeping with the demand for experiences, the companies say, retro flaming baked Alaska looks to make a comeback as “dessert of the year.”

Consumers want to experience what they’ve seen on TikTok, Roberts says, and what will look good in their own TikTok feeds.

“TikTok is the new Yelp,” he says. “Everything from butter boards (charcuterie with a spread-butter base) to, well, just everything is on there,” he says. “People are getting a lot of food ideas, from the crazy to the benign ... to recipes. It’s bizarre how (the app) has exploded.”

2023 food trends include retro cocktails, baked Alaska, Filipino food and more (1)


Kolbe DiGiulio, beverage director at Decades restaurant, bar, retro arcade and event venue at 438 N. Queen St., Lancaster, says sweet and nostalgic cocktails are back for 2023.

“This year it seems to be a bit of a ’90s trend,” DiGiulio says, “bringing back cosmos and appletinis and all of these sweet, sugary drinks that kind of phased out when we went into fresher, more local ingredients. It became a movement. But now we’re kind of just back into having fun. ... with classic margaritas, Midori sours, blue Hawaiians.

“I think the whole cocktail experience is kind of the new frontier that everyone’s kind of pushing for,” DiGiulio says.

“At bars today, everyone can make an amazing drink. Everyone is super skilled,” he says. “But now we’re thinking about the next thing. How can we make sure you’re sharing this on Instagram? How can we make sure you’re sharing this on TikTok? How can we make sure you’re really enjoying the entire experience?”

DiGiulio offers an example. “Here at Decades, we have a drink that comes inside of an ice ball. ... It’s a sphere that’s hollowed ice. We inject the drink inside of it, and then when you order it and it comes out to you, we have a little hammer — it’s like a jeweler’s hammer — and then we break it and then the drink just kind of spills into the glass.

“We have a drink with a smoke bubble on top, and the customer pops the bubble and the smoke spills out all over the glass,” DiGiulio adds.


With those kinds of cocktails, you can’t merely capture the experience with a still photo,” he says. Customers like to take a video of their drink experience to upload to TikTok.

“It’s not just ‘is this an amazing drink, and is it very photogenic?’ ” says DiGiulio. “It’s ‘was this fun, and did you have a good time doing it?’ ”

“The general public is becoming so much more knowledgeable about food and how it’s produced because of Instagram, TikTok, social media,” says Blayre Wright of Manheim, owner of private wedding cake studio Flouretta Sweet and recent winner of the Food Network’s “Halloween Baking Championship.”

Customers “are watching these master bakers in France making croissants by hand and they’re seeing all the technique and they see all the detail, and they’re like, ‘I want that. I want to post it online,’ ” Wright says.

“I will say, in general, the public just seems a lot more knowledgeable because of social media,” she says. “They’ll know wedding cake terms and even food terms, and I think it’s keeping food businesses on their toes.

“So, we, as business owners,” need to be “coming up with something trendy, something that we’re known for and it also has to taste good ... it can’t just be visually appealing,” she says.

2023 food trends include retro cocktails, baked Alaska, Filipino food and more (2)

Foods and cuisines

af&co./Carbonate’s annual report declares maitake mushrooms — known as hen-of-the-woods for their feather-like texture — as the “dish of the year.” Roasted or fried, its hearty texture makes it a meat substitute in a food sphere where people continue to look for new and different sustainable and plant-based food choices, the companies say.

“It’s the new portobello,” Roberts says. “It has all these crags on it, and it holds the sauces or whatever you’re cooking it with.”

Another hot item for the year is kelp, Roberts says.

“It’s the rise of the sea veggies,” he says. “Kelp ... is the most nutrient-dense vegetable on Earth, and it doesn’t require any fresh water, land or chemicals, making them the ultimate regenerative crop. ... They’re starting to put that stuff into everything now.”

Kelp is also on the radar at Whole Foods Market, which also produces an annual trend report. The supermarket company sees the seaweed being used in noodles, chips, fish-free “fish” sauce and more in 2023.

It’s part of a push for sustainable eating, Roberts says. “I cannot begin to tell you how that has really blown up. People want clean labels, gluten free. Diners want to know how the chicken or the pig or cow is being taken care of.”

Being a “regenivore” is the food-trend “word of the year,” writes the New York Times’ Kim Severson in her annual food forecast for 2023. “That refers to a new generation demanding that food companies help heal the planet through carbon-reducing agriculture, strict animal welfare policies and fair treatment of food growers and processors.”

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Severson and af&co./Carbonate say briny cocktails, featuring clam juice, Clamato, olive brine, raw oysters, caviar, crab claws and shrimp, are on trend for the year.

Other Whole Foods trends for 2023 include yaupon, a dark beverage made from a caffeinated plant native to the southern U.S.; baking mixes made with the pulp left over from making soy, oat and almond milk; new plant- and fruit-based pasta alternatives made from produce, including hearts of palm, spaghetti squash and green bananas; and using dates — and pastes and syrups made from them — as sweeteners.

af&co./Carbonate says ube, a purple tuber native to the Philippines, will make an appearance in lots of foods for the year; af&co.’s chosen “cuisine of the year” is Filipino.

Purple ube will be found in food and beverages “from pies and waffles to lattes and ube coladas,” Severson says.

Nigerian food, with its layered-flavor stews and fonio grain, is also getting diners’ attention this year, Severson says.

Sharing Severson’s trend list are avocados in cocktails and desserts. Whole Foods says the properties of avocado oil — healthy fats and a high smoke point — will make it popular this year, as well.

In addition, Severson foresees crispy chicken skins being used in snacks such as nachos; the combination of aspects of Japanese cuisine with other culinary heritages such as Italian and Peruvian; and inflation-conscious penny pinching through swapping money-saving hacks and using energy-saving small appliances for cooking.

Roberts says pistachios will have an expanded role on menus in 2023— in place of pine nuts in pesto, in Mexican mole, pizza toppings and even tortellini filling.

Low, no alcohol

Mocktails will continue to be important on restaurant and bar menus, say Roberts and DiGiulio.

“This younger generation doesn’t drink as much as we do,” Roberts says, predicting lower-ABV craft beers will continue to rise in popularity.

Nonalcoholic beverages “are definitely very popular, especially with dry January,” DiGiulio says. “We just started putting mocktails on the menu right before COVID ... and we’ve always had pretty good success with them.

“I’m also seeing larger sales in nonalcoholic beer, DiGiulio says. “You’re going out with friends, still feeling a part of the party, but you have to get up early or you have to be responsible” as the designated driver.

“There’s more craft breweries that make nonalcoholic beers,” he says. “When I go to order, where I might have had one or two options 10 years ago, even five years ago, now I have probably 10 to 15 more options.

“I can get nonalcoholic stouts, I can get nonalcoholic IPAs, I can get nonalcoholic lagers,” DiGiulio says. “That wasn’t always the case.”

Desserts and weddings

“I’m generally seeing a shift in the entire food-service industry to people just honing in on what they’re good at, becoming experts at just one thing,” Wright says. “Even if you look here at Lancaster city, and look at the types of food businesses that are here,” there are businesses that focus solely on empanadas or burgers or cheesecakes.

“I feel like people are almost trying to become the experts in one thing or even have a big draw so people are coming to your shop for one specific thing,” Wright says.

“Design-wise people love retro. Retro is definitely coming back,” she says.

“Macarons are really popular,” Wright says. “They’re having this resurgence, I think, in general.

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“Dessert bars are huge right now,” she says. “There are weddings where they’re just serving appetizers or they’re serving small bites and multiple courses and not a big plate of things. Eighty percent of or my weddings get a cake and a dessert display as well. ...

“I do the basics — cookies, brownies, bar cookies — but I also offer little parfaits, and people love the nostalgic flavors. I have a s’mores parfait and people love that. Strawberry shortcakes. I have a macaron that’s creme brulee flavor,” she says.

“When it comes to wedding cakes, the cupcake display, for me, is dying off,” Wright says. “It’s pretty rare. I only have maybe one or two weddings out of 40 or 50 every year that gets a cupcake display. People really want the pies and the whoopie pies and they want a big amount of variety.

“But I’m noticing people do want larger and larger cakes,” she says. “For a while they were were doing the small cake to cut. And now people are like, ‘I want an eight-tier cake or a seven-tier cake,’ which I love. I always love a challenge.”

Tech is king

Finally, Roberts says, restaurants will continue to upgrade their technological capabilities in 2023, including streamlining their ordering apps to make it easier for the consumer — continuing to turn the smartphone into ever more of an ordering kiosk.

He sees an emphasis on “the expansion of in-house delivery, to take it back from third-party delivery.

“Everyone’s either renovating their current loyal programs or they are adding one on. ... It’s not just getting a discount. It goes back to the ‘experience’ piece” of letting customers get access to additional food, experiences, swag and more, “but only if you’re a member.”

Food halls — from new ones in New York City to our own Southern Market Center — will grow in popularity this year, as will “ghost kitchens” where you can only order your food online,” Roberts predicts.

Making these business adjustments will be especially important, Roberts adds, as the food service business continues to face challenges from the lingering effects of the pandemic, supply-chain issues, higher food costs and the difficulty in recruiting staff.

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