As the dining out sector keeps up with contemporary movements, a battle of the two strong food-service trends unfolds before us.

The war of nutrition is well and truly underway as the ‘good’ of healthy food dishes takes on the ‘evil’ of the ‘dude foods’. There is an apparent and contemporary movement in some consumers towards a desire for nutritionally beneficial food types, as these look to compete for menu space with the likes of burgers, burritos and barbecue delights.

Data experts Horizons find that trends in food and ingredients more readily and rapidly find their way to high street stores than ever before, confirmed by the survey of 800 high street menu.

The industry is aware of the fast-pace and ever-changing demands for menus and their contents and operators are increasingly realising the importance of staying current and popular, with healthy and novel ingredients leading the way as the ‘in’ style.

Horizons’ Managing Director, Peter Backman suggests that customers are now more open than ever to venturing into knew culinary explorations whilst stating those food types with perceived benefits as being of particular interest.

Backman also highlights the influence of digital technology in the industry; “Social media has also prompted the sharing of recipes and food ideas, while the popular lifestyle and fitness bloggers have made an impact on what we eat at home, and therefore what we expect to see on eating out menus. More than ever before operators need to keep up with the pace of change.”

The most recent of Menu Trends surveys underlined main course salad dishes as being the 4th most listed on UK menus. A 54% annual increase has seen the salad become one of Britain’s most desired meals when eating out.

The introduction of more and more pulses and fruits into offerings year by year has paralleled the inclination toward the use of the term ‘Superfood’, which has seen a 75% increase in the last 12 months.

Both vegetarian and vegan dishes have surged to now hold a larger portion of menu space and the dining industry as a whole. Vegetarian dishes have doubled their share over the last six years, with vegan dishes enjoying a rise of 21%.

Free-from options are also ever advancing and more apparent with both gluten-free and wheat-free terminology seeing increases of 89% and 80% respectively.

The ‘sugar tax’ campaign, as fronted by Jamie Oliver, has encouraged operators to offer sugar-free options or at least those with reduced sugar content. Leading food outlets are now taking notice and proactively aiming to capture a share of this expanding and differentiated market segment.


Retaining the top spots of the most frequently listed menu dishes are beef burgers, pizza and chicken burgers. This however does not tell the whole story. Beef burgers alone have seen a 7% decrease on appearances with hot-dogs being knocked out of the top 20 by the 56% increase in the presence of burritos since mid-2014.

The British traditional dish of Fish and Chips has seen an even more notable decline of 26% over the same period, a significant drop in inclusion.

However, not all trends are toward a healthy style of offering. There is an obvious and growing movement in the direction of meat-based dishes inspired by the Deep South method of long ‘n’ slow cooking, including; ribs, beef brisket and pulled pork.

It is Backman’s suggestion that the decision of what to include and exclude from a menu is becoming both difficult and important in order for dining establishments to stay in touch. It is clear through Horizons’ findings that there is a strong drift towards a demand for healthier choices increasingly reflected by high street menus.

As the battle rages on it’s yet to be seen whether ‘good’ or ‘evil’ will prevail. Whichever side you’re on be sure to source all of your Crockery, Cutlery and Serveware from Alliance.

*Horizons’ Menu Trends Report [Summer 2016] contains data from 800 menus collected and fully coded twice a year – summer and winter – from 121 brands including pubs, restaurants, quick service and hotels. The service offers the analysis of over 300,000 dishes with historical data back to 2003.

Adapted from Garden Centre & Farm Shop Catering (Autumn 2016)