I've seen lots of food trends come and go. From the 90's penchant for CalMed i.e tall food, pesto, sun dried tomatoes and tapenade to the current leaning towards foraged ingredients and new Nordic cuisine. In between we've seen gourmet burgers, bangers, bbq, and burritos. As I've mentioned in an earlier post, Dublin tends to follow London, usually with about a five year lag. So what's the next big thing for Ireland? That's the question that canny operators are asking themselves and trying to steal a march on the competition.
The following graphic charts trends over the last 12 months and, if you'll forgive the pun, gives plenty of food for thought.
Breakfast/Brunch has now firmly established itself as strong market and is clearly being taken more seriously by most operators. Small plates and sharing boards seem to be lasting longer than most people predicted. It appears we've realised that "tapas" as a concept can not really work here so we've developed an improvised version that suits us better. All the indications are that bbq is still hot, despite pulled pork having achieved ubiquity...the food equivalent of cocktails in jam jars.
Our consumption of chicken continues unabated, I suspect driven by 16-20 year olds who seem have an appetite for little else. UFC and KFC go hand in hand. All day dining is proving very popular and when coupled with speciality coffee seems to be a recipe for success. As we all become a little more health conscious those catering for specific dietary requirements and providing super food options appear to be thriving...yet still like a sly "dirty burger" now and again.
Large scale ventures which a friend refers to as "disco restaurants" seem to be thriving in Dublin City Centre, I'm not sure they would survive elsewhere.
Ingredient specific ventures such as Burger & Lobster, Duck, or Pizza & Porcetta are becoming increasingly popular. The predictability of this model make them very attractive for investors.
So to return to my earlier question, what will be the next big thing here? As the economy starts to grow over the next few years, I predict that casual, affordable fine dining will catch on here. This a big trend in London right now and the success of Forest Avenue suggests that the appetite is already here. I've been banging on for years about the lack to top quality casual Italian here that doesn't involve pizza. Places like Trullo, Bocca di Lupo & Artusi. I'm surprised this hasn't caught on here. Maybe next year will be the year my prediction comes true...even a stopped clock is right twice a day! I also see the increase in pubs serving good food and craft beer continuing, although the quality of both is a little inconsistent at the moment and needs to improve if it's going to stay around for the long term.
It's a very exciting time for the restaurant industry in Ireland at the moment and I feel we'll be heading into the next upturn with a more established base of people who eat out. As we become more discerning about our food and drink choices, the quality of what's available should continue to improve. That can only mean good things for diners and operators alike.