8 Key Sustainability Trends for Restaurants in 2024
As the year draws to a close, we’re looking ahead to what we can expect to see from restaurants in 2024, and we’re feeling very optimistic about what the next 12 months might bring – in terms of more planet-friendly kitchen practices, and as diners eager to see more innovation on menus.
Nose-to-tail eating isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, but as more kitchens start to view food waste as a no-go, we’ll be expecting to see a wider variety of cuts on restaurant menus. Not only will menus continue to feature inexpensive but flavour-packed cuts of meat like beef shin, pig cheek, lamb neck or chicken hearts, but we’ll also see more initiative from businesses to buy and use the whole animal; in an era when most businesses are anxious to reduce costs, this can be an extremely budget-friendly way of planning, ordering and designing menus.
Meat-free options based on real plants
We know the science is clear: we all need to be eating less meat and more plants if we are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide future food security for an expanding global population. Studies show that simply decreasing the amount of meat in our diets can have a significant impact on individual emissions, which is good news for the growing number of flexitarians amongst us. It’s obvious that the trend for plant-based eating isn’t going anywhere – but, with more consumers wary of ultra-processed foods, we believe 2024 will see a bigger focus on dishes made from whole foods like beans, pulses, tofu and tempeh, mushrooms, nuts and seeds, rather than highly processed alternatives with long ingredient lists.
Regenerative is the new organic
Taking planet-friendly farming to the next level, regenerative farms seek to undo the damage done by industrial agriculture. These mixed farming systems are designed to nourish soil through the use of no-till methods and cover cropping; provide space for wildlife and pollinators; avoid the use of pesticides and fertilisers; grow a diverse range of plants and implement crop rotation to leave fields fallow on a regular basis; and graze animals on the land as part of symbiotic, holistic system.
More chefs will be looking to source their ingredients from farms like this that are actively working to replenish and restore nature. Regenerative mixed systems can provide a variety of plant foods as well as meat – as a by-product or from wild game – and even honey.
Focus on biodiversity
The last few months have seen increased focus on protecting biodiversity, and we know that the hospitality industry can play a significant role in this. In 2024, we’re hoping to see menus designed with biodiversity in mind, featuring things like heritage/rare breeds indigenous to their regions (like English Longhorn or Irish Dexter cows, Gloucester Old Spot pigs or Salt Marsh lamb); ancient grain varieties such as amaranth, millet, sorghum, freekeh or farro; less commonly-seen types of seafood, caught by sustainable fisheries using traditional methods; and invasive non-native species that are threatening local ecosystems on land and in our oceans. In general, look for a wider variety of ingredients appearing on restaurant menus, encouraging new levels of creativity from chefs.
Fermentation is another a food trend that has been around for a few years. As more restaurants embrace a zero-tolerance attitude to food waste – and with gut health still a top priority for many health-conscious consumers – we’re looking forward to seeing more in-house ferments that repurpose food that would otherwise be wasted. Think fermented pickles, kefir, kombucha, saurekraut, kimchi, homemade hot sauces and plenty more, all produced right in the restaurant. Look for this trend popping up on bar menus, too, from cocktails featuring pickled produce to kombucha on tap – a funky, microbiome-friendly option that also meets a growing demand for low-alcohol beverages.
Both chefs and consumers are more interested in local sourcing and provenance is still king. Ingredients sourced from within the immediate vicinity supports small businesses and local economies, and helps customers to form stronger connections with the food on their plates. Even in city environments, we’ll start to see smart repurposing of disused spaces for growing food, whether that’s vertical farms, urban farms or allotments. We’ll also see more chefs take matters into their own hands, with restaurants growing food in their outdoor spaces, on rooftops or right in their kitchens. This trend will also include foraged foods, from fruits and berries to sea vegetables, mushrooms, nuts and seeds and even things like pollen, lichen, tree sap and spices.
Better kids’ menus
Wave goodbye to bland, beige selections of sausages, burgers or nuggets and chips. As Millennials have become parents, we’ve seen increased demand for more nourishing children’s meals made from high-quality ingredients. Successful family-friendly restaurants will continue to find new ways to satisfy both parents and kids, exploring trendy but nutritious options like customisable bento boxes or platters, plant-based proteins and fruit-based, no-added-sugar desserts.
With more urgency around making food waste a thing of the past, we’ll see more kitchens adopting a circular mindset. The theory behind circular systems is to create no waste in the first place, taking inspiration from the natural world – nature wastes nothing. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation – a UK-based organisation promoting the concept of circularity – identifies three core principles of a circular economy: regenerate natural systems; keep products and materials in use; and design out waste and pollution.
What does this look like for restaurants? In 2024, we’ll be seeing more chefs beginning to design their menus with circularity in mind from the get-go, using ingredients or parts of ingredients that otherwise would have been wasted. Look for smaller menus and those cleverly designed to use different parts of one ingredient across several dishes.
This approach could also include composting those food scraps that truly can’t be used elsewhere, then using this compost to grow vegetables to be served in the restaurant. True circularity extends beyond food waste to other buying decisions, too, choosing upcycled options for things like furniture and crockery. The days of single-use items are quickly drawing to a close.
Keep up to date with the latest news, trends and updates throughout 2024 by signing up to our newsletter!
Interested in what makes for a sustainable restaurant? Click here to learn about the Food Made Good Standard, the only global sustainability accreditation designed for hospitality businesses.
BELU AND THE SRA SERVE UP A NEW SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE TO SUSTAINABILITY
- Sustainability News
- Food Made Good
- Support the Community
- Energy Efficiency
- TREAT STAFF FAIRLY
- Social Impact
- SUPPORT FARMERS AND FISHERS
- CELEBRATE PROVENANCE
- Reduce Your Footprint
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
WHO IS THE WORLD'S MOST SUSTAINABLE BARTENDER 2023?
- Sustainability News
GREAT NEWS! WELCOMING A NEW PARTNERSHIP WITH LUXURY RESTAURANT GUIDE
- Sustainability News