• Chris Posner

No Place Like Home

Bird songs, warm sunshine, and outdoor activity are usually telltale signs that spring is in the air. But it’s different this year. City and town streets are silent; restaurants are empty or closed; schools shuttered. Trade shows cancelled. The 2020 Olympics postponed. How will this affect our future? How will this affect the foodservice landscape? How will this affect food and flavor trends?

Here is my take…

We have seen the rise of food delivery, with companies such as UberEATS and Grub Hub in the driver’s seat. While I see this trend continuing amid mass quarantine, I see the pendulum swinging the opposite direction once the Covid-19 situation is culled. I predict people yearning to get out, to socialize, and to frequent their favorite neighborhood restaurants once again.

As for flavors, botanicals, such as cherry blossom and hibiscus have been trending upward and were slated to be a big trend for 2020. Will this trend continue? My guess would be yes. With many people domestically, (and globally), spending much of the spring months indoors, we will be craving some sign of the fresh outdoors, possibly delivered via floral flavors in food and beverage, reconnecting us with nature.

Regional Asian flavors is another trend which has been forecast. Sichuan peppercorns and star anise from the Sichuan region, or citrus and fermented flavors from the Hunan region. Will these flavors continue to grow amid the Covid-19 crises? Potentially, yes. With strict travel restrictions and cancelled trips to Asia, Americans may crave these flavor profiles. However, sentiment may swing the other way, with consumers leaning in to ‘homegrown’ flavors and regions, giving them sense of comfortability. We saw this with the growth of comfort foods such as mac and cheese and hamburgers after the economic recession of 2008, as well as the newfound interest in old crafts such as home canning and pickling. Will we see return to the regional flavors of the American South West, California cuisine, or even Mid-Atlantic cuisine? Perhaps.

The rise in non-alcoholic drinks is certainly an interesting trend. Presumably with the rise of legal marijuana we have seen a trending decline in alcohol consumption. However, again, with the current global pandemic, and social distancing and quarantining taking hold, will we see a reverse trend with a rise in alcohol consumption? When the pandemic subsides, or we have a true “flattening of the curve”, will we see a return to bars for happy hour? A strong return to ‘eatertainment’ at establishments such as TopGolf and Punch Bowl Social? TBD.

There are many other potential trend reversals that may occur due to the virus. With many people stocking up on dry pasta will they realize how much they’ve missed their carbs? I’ve also seen many people delving into baking bread at home (albeit, this may just be in my microcosm chef friend world), again a return to the basics, a taste of ‘home’.

In uncertain and troubling times humans tend to revert to what is comfortable, and familiar, or perceived as safe. Will this happen in the food landscape, as it did in 2008? Time will tell.

Thankfully for us chefs, and those in the business of food, we can take comfort in the fact that people will always need to eat.