Classic Restaurant Menu Trends

Menu Items Customers Love

Burger and fries
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Food is a lot like fashion; there are trends and fads. What is popular one day is taboo the next. Recent food trends include bottled and flavored waters, mini foods (burgers, sandwiches, desserts), and local and organic foods. Some trends, like bottled water, have already passed into the territory of food fad. Others, like organic and local fare, will continue to influence menu trends for years to come. While not every classic menu trend listed below will fit every restaurant concept, incorporating a few into your regular menu can’t hurt.

And classic doesn’t equate boring. There are many ways to introduce old favorites in a new way.

Comfort Food

Meatloaf, shepherd's pie, pot roast and gravy, macaroni and cheese…these items have been featured on restaurant menus for decades. The mass appeal of simple, filling foods isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon, even with the growing focus on healthier eating options at restaurants.

Local Foods

Local Foods are the biggest trend for 2012, according to the What’s Hot survey. It includes locally grown produce and locally sourced meats and seafood. This trend is reflected in the continuation of the farm-to-table movement, as more people want to know where their food comes from. Check out these 10 reasons restaurants should by local.


I always like to say the burger is the little black dress of any menu. It can be served plain – elegant and appealing. Or it can be dressed up, though perhaps not as much as the world’s most expensive burger by NYC food truck 666, which featured a burger worth a whopping $666, topped with foie gras, caviar, lobster, truffles and aged gruyere cheese. Looking for some new gourmet burger ideas, minus the caviar?


Like burgers, pizza is another menu favorite that can be dressed up or down. Pepperoni pizza is still the most popular type of pizza in the US. However, many restaurant concepts have been built around gourmet pizza, like California Pizza. Pizza is a low cost and easily prepared menu item that is well suited for a casual dinner any night of the week.

Olive Oil

Olive oil has been touted in recent years for its health benefits. Of course, Italians have known this for centuries. Just as pizza has taken a foothold in the United States, cooking with olive oil and serving it as a condiment or dipping sauce has become standard issue in many restaurants.

Healthy Kid Menu Options

A big trend that isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon is healthier menu options for children. Even McDonalds is offering healthier options in their happy meals, including milk instead of soda and apple dippers instead of French fries. To help you revamp your own kid's menu, here is a kid-friendly restaurant menu that balances popular kids’ foods with nutritious alternatives that parents will appreciate.


Whether you like it ala mode or plain, pie is a perennial favorite for dessert. Probably because most people don’t feel like they have the time to whip up an apple pie. Fruit pies continue to be a popular staple on dessert menus everywhere. To dress up the simple pie, bakeries are offering decadent confections with mousse, custards, glazes and other tasty fillings.


Salads have long been featured on menus as a side, appetizer and entrée option. Salad appeals to those customers looking to eat healthier, light summer meal or something quick. Salads have evolved from iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes to exotic selections featuring everything from truffles to caviar.

Egg Dishes

Eggs are the cornerstone of any breakfast menu. Plus they are cheap, cheap, cheap! Eggs can also play a role in lunch and dinner menus – think quiches or poached eggs served with a decadent hollandaise sauce.


Whether local, artisan, microbrew, hyper-local, or whatever label you want to preface it with, Americans love their beer. According to the Brewers Association, there are over 1700 breweries in the US. Depending on your restaurant concept, a solid beer menu can keep customers coming back.

Menu trends come and go for most restaurants. What's hot one year may be nothing more than a food fad the next year. But there is a trend that shows no signs of fading, like healthy options and those that offer good food cost.