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It’s no secret that 2020 has been a year unlike any other. Kimpton® Hotels & Restaurants release new food and beverage trends for 2020 and shared predictions on how evolving consumer behaviour will shape 2021 trends.
The seventh annual Culinary & Cocktail Trend Forecast for 2021 finds out that from the country’s sourdough and banana bread baking obsession to the viral Dalgona coffee wave and plenty of virtual wine tastings, what we eat and drink has served as a way to safely connect us as a global community. In 2021 consumers can expect a new wave of trends, from the rise of garden goods to a resurgence of health foods, as this pandemic continues to shift the way diners eat, cook and imbibe.
Data analysts reviewed in-restaurant, takeaway and room service orders from more than 75 Kimpton restaurants and bars globally and combined those insights with predictions and analysis from food and beverage leaders across Kimpton restaurants worldwide.
Here are some of the highlights.
Culinary: 2020 Takeaways
- Treat Yourself: Restaurant Edition - While consumers cooked more than ever before this year, they missed more elevated or complex meals. This led to a surge in restaurant orders of dishes guests couldn’t execute as easily at home - including prime rib, roast duck, freshly shucked oysters and paella. “What we’ve seen since the pandemic began is ‘Premiumisation’ - a huge rise in cocktails and draught beer sales to cater to what people couldn’t access at home,” says Jack Bennett, Assistant GM, The Refuge at Kimpton® Clocktower Hotel, Manchester. The Four Month Dry-Aged NY Strip Steak at Citizen Rail at Kimpton Hotel Born in Denver was also a diner favourite.
- “Home-Cooked” Takeout - Kimpton saw a rise in demand for do-it-yourself restaurant-quality food that can be easily prepared or heated up with simple instructions at home. Consumers ordered ready-to-heat soups, taco kits, sandwiches and to-go cocktails where they simply combine the ingredients, add ice and garnish.
- Comfort Me Please: Rise in Nostalgic Comfort Food - The most popular room service orders included burgers, pizza, grilled cheese and pasta. The data showed that salads saw one of the sharpest declines in food items purchased from March to September across all restaurants. At Kimpton® Vividora Hotel in Barcelona, cheesecake has been a surprising hit this year, and at the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel in Manchester, England there was a spike in demand for burgers and grilled cheese.
Culinary: 2021 Predictions
- Is Carob a Carb? Comfort Food Will Fade Out & Health Food Will Reign Supreme - Again - Over the last several weeks, Kimpton has already seen a shift away from comfort food towards healthy dishes with fresher ingredients and even more vegan and vegetarian options. Expect healthy, hearty bowls using grains like bulgur or farro, with roasted vegetables, mushrooms and punchy, herbal dressings. Freeze dried fruits and veggies will also see a surge in popularity. Lastly, expect carob to make a comeback – the plant-based, low sugar, antioxidant-rich ingredient is fantastic as a natural sweetener. “If there’s one trend from 2020 that we know will continue it’s that we’ll continue to give a lot of attention to health-conscious and planet-based cuisine, so 2021 will be a carob-covered year indeed,” says Justin Dunne, General Manager, Restaurants & Bars at Kimpton® Maa-Lai Bangkok.
- Garden Pesto & Edible Cactus Will Be the New Banana Bread - Home gardens are all the rage, with people adding fresh herbs, citrus, chilies and veggies to all their dishes. The next iteration of this is homemade oat milk, pesto, jam and pickled everything. Burgeoning home chefs are dehydrating, canning, fermenting and pickling more than ever before. “People are also starting to grow and eat some cacti species, adding unique flavours and health benefits to an array of dishes,” said Justin Dunne, General Manager, Restaurants & Bars, Kimpton® Maa-Lai Bangkok. Grilled cactus can be part of a flavourful fajita dish or elevate a tossed salad with unexpected texture in each bite.
- Local is the New Sustainable - There is a growing sense of community and support for local businesses and suppliers, and the desire to band together and help local communities push through these difficult times. People will also prefer locally sourced foods that represent the area of the restaurant. As an example, King Tide Fish & Shell at Kimpton® RiverPlace Hotel in Portland recently partnered with the chef of nearby Olympia Oyster Bar to create a “Cockteles y Mariscos” six course pairing menu of cocktails and fresh seafood-based dishes.
Cocktail/Beverage: 2020 Takeaways
- Pour Me a Strong One - Single servings of agave-based spirits were one of three - alongside sparkling wine and Riesling - beverages that saw a big spike in orders. Kimpton also saw a rise in elevated cocktails on-property, as many guests weren’t as comfortable making these at home. It’s no surprise that to-go and large format cocktails have also been more popular than ever for takeaway. Additionally, the category of “happy hour” (enjoyed outdoors, in-room or to-go) at Kimpton data saw a 17% increase year over year, indicating that consumers are looking for more economical options in this challenging economic climate.
- Making a Sour Year Sweeter - Bottles of Riesling and sparkling wine both saw increases in purchases, which are two of only seven offerings across all categories that experienced year-over-year increases. Riesling saw the largest beverage growth, across both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, with a 32% increase.
- Drinks Education is a Hit - Wine and cocktail education was a huge trend in 2020, with virtual cooking, cocktail making and wine tasting sessions gaining popularity for people during quarantine. This trend, which was adopted by Kimpton via Virtual Social Hours, gave bartenders and sommeliers a chance to connect with consumers directly, sharing the stories behind the wines and drinks they create.
Cocktail/Beverage: 2021 Predictions
- Mocktails + Cleaner Cocktails - Consumers will be looking for fresher, “healthier” cocktails in 2021. Expect to see a demand for dual-purpose mocktails and cocktails with lower ABV. “More and more, customers tend not to drink as many ‘hard’ alcoholic drinks as before so cocktail makers are adapting to a new “healthier” drinking trend adding food items such as ginger, coffee, herbal teas, vegetables and herbs” says Pep Miro, Director of Operations at Kimpton Vividora Hotel, Barcelona. Hard kombucha, spiked seltzers and CBD in drinks, boozy coffee, natural wines and lower calorie wines are also here to stay.
- Goodbye Vodka Sodas – Bring on the Elaborate Cocktails - Because it’s all about balance, consumers will still treat themselves when they want to indulge! Fewer drinking occasions means imbibers will be more likely to try a memorable concoction. Many will prefer cocktails with premium spirits that incorporate more unusual or uncommon ingredients. For example, Executive Chef Thomas at Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo says: “People are getting more and more curious about quirky cocktails such as ‘Lamb fat infused gin cocktail with dried mushrooms’ or pairings such as Ginger infused cold-pressed juice.”
- All-Encompassing “Drinks Sommelier” - Kimpton experts predict the evolution of the sommelier as someone that is a master of more than just wine. A “Drinks Sommelier” will be an expert that guides diners through the nuances of premium rum, whiskey, and tequila, in addition to wines, beers and sake. These sipping spirits have piqued the interest of cocktail lovers for their diversity, character and complex flavours. Justin Dunne from Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok reckons that even mocktails will be part of the repertoire for “Drinks Sommelier”.
- Wanderlust-Inspired Wines - Due to the newfound knowledge from wine education courses during quarantine, consumers are looking for diversity in their wines and products. Kimpton predicts wines from new regions will emerge from places travellers dreamed of going in 2020 including Moldova, Croatia, Hungary, Morocco, Lebanon, South Africa and even Mexico. “Our bestselling wines recently were coming from Greece, Romania, Croatia or Lebanon – they are often great value for money and people start to appreciate that the quality of product that doesn’t need to be reflected in price because of particular name or region,” says Anna Myslinska, Food & Beverage Lead at Kimpton® Charlotte Square in Edinburgh. In Japan, Executive Chef Thomas at Kimpton Shinjuku Tokyo shared that “California varieties are garnering a lot of attention in Japan and becoming the 'go-to' wine.”
Dining Experience: 2020 Takeaways
- More Outdoor Dining Options - Safer, socially distant outdoor dining is unsurprisingly in demand, leading to restaurateurs investing in new outdoor spaces, layouts and creative experiences. These new or enhanced spaces have created the closest thing to a pre-pandemic dining experience that most people have missed while in quarantine.
- Streamlined Menus - To minimize food waste and simplify things for restaurants, Kimpton saw tighter and smaller menus, with an emphasis on verbal daily specials to help expand menus when needed. Anna Myslinska at Kimpton Charlotte Square, Edinburgh says “Our menus reflect growing awareness about climate change and food waste, with more healthy options and sustainable ingredients.”
- Let’s Keep This Private…Dining and Drinking - While banquet dining and business-driven group dinners decreased, private dining soared with a large increase seen YOY as consumers were looking for COVID-friendly isolated dining. At Kimpton Maa Lai Bangkok, hotel management saw success with masked bartenders making Daiquiris, Old Fashioneds and Manhattans for guests in the safety and privacy of their own room.
Dining Experience: 2021 Predictions
- Winter is Coming and So Are Creative Dining Options to Suit Any Climate - Restaurateurs will continue adding new outdoor dining experiences, even in markets with cold weather. Expect to see every outdoor space reimagined to create unique experiences for guests (say hello to snow globe dining for your quaranteam!) Kimpton Maa Lai Bangkok is offering Cycle & Picnic packages so guests can enjoy the outdoors while eating an elevated and tasty meal. Kimpton Clocktower Hotel in Manchester is also creating a Winter Garden for guests to drink and dine in a beautiful winter wonderland and catering for earlier dining due to dark winter nights and local guidelines. “Brunch has always been popular but there has been an upsurge in this due to people going out earlier due to restaurants having to close earlier.” says Jack Bennett, at The Refuge at Kimpton Clocktower Hotel.
- More Intimate, Highly Personalized Event Spaces - From an events perspective, guests are looking for intimate, highly personalized experiences in spaces that are comfortable, warm and have an inviting atmosphere. Outdoor micro-weddings have been popular at the Kimpton® Hotel Monaco Philadelphia, with personalised, next-level details like a Smoked Out Old-Fashioned Station, customized face masks for every guest and sunset helicopter rides for the newlyweds.
- Ambiance Matters More Than Ever - Going out is more of a treat than ever before and as a result, consumers will see more tented, heated rooftop spaces, leveraging high quality sound systems and playlists to create that perfect atmosphere for guests. Restaurateurs and bar owners will go all in on lighting, greenery, landscaping, heating and cooling, and amazing framed in views. Kimpton® Journeyman Hotel in Milwaukee offers spaced out rooftop dining and drinking with picture perfect views of the city.
Scott Gingerich, Kimpton’s Senior Vice President of Restaurants & Bars said, “We know that diners’ needs have changed – the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the foodie or at-home chef in many. While diners first leaned into comfort and nostalgia, heading into the new year we’re seeing a return to health and wellness-inspired culinary and cocktail creations. This forecast touches on some of the biggest takeaways from 2020, which trends are already starting to fade and how evolving preferences are driving dining and drinking for 2021.”
Photo credits: Aubrie Pick,