The Global Menu 2013 And Beyond

Leadership Summit Identifies Global Menu Trends for 2013


Panama City PANAMA, December 11, 2012 – Grupo Olson and Global Business Alliance announced 2013 trend predictions at a press conference at Le Meridién Panama City, Panama.  Results are based on reviews of restaurants and menus from around the world and in-depth interviews with chefs, restaurateurs and consumers in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and emerging Asian markets.


Global Business Alliance estimates North America and Europe represent more than half (54%) of foodservice sales globally, yet flavor and menu influences from emerging markets are having a profound effect on menus worldwide.


Global Menus

A survey of concierges in major business hotels around the world found that their recommendations for restaurants offering global cuisine on their menus are among the most well received by business travelers.  Although some of their guests are seeking recommendations for authentic local food, many more are interested in eating and entertaining in restaurants that will satisfy a wide range of tastes.


Popular global menus almost always include the classic American burger and more recently sliders.  Mediterranean foods are perennially popular especially Italian menu items and foods from Spain.  Asian dishes from sushi to noodle bowls also have their place on the global menu.  Chefs will add their signature to the menu by using the freshest local ingredients to give every menu a unique terroir.


Mediterranean Flavors

Among the most widely appreciated foods and flavors are those of Italy and Spain.  Italian foods have become the world’s comfort classic.  Spanish influence is seen on trend setting small plate menus, and in classic global menu favorites like burgers and pizza.  Jamón ibérico sliders are on the menu at Opera in London and jamón ibérico flatbread is on the menu at Mi Casa in Korea.


Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa are emerging as the latest favorites from this part of the globe.  Greek and Turkish foods are gaining a following for freshness and the appeal of healthfulness.  The exotic flavors of the Maghreb countries and their characteristic slow cooked tagines and flavorful couscous dishes are serving up warmth and comfort worldwide.


Mexican food has become popular around the world for its bold flavor and the aura of fiesta that makes it a festive dining experience.  Nuevo Latino is the latest wave and South American foods, particularly Peruvian, are gaining attention as the world takes note of the richness of agricultural products available in the southern hemisphere.


Many of the newest functional foods are coming from South America.  From Peru, purple corn, maca, and cat’s claw are among the most recent to gain attention.  From Venezuela and Brazil, guarana and açai are gaining attention.  These super-ingredients offer a wide range of purported benefits including boosting the immune system, improving digestive health and even claims of aphrodisiac qualities.


Asian Flavors

The new soup and sandwich is likely to have a distinct Asian flavor with Banh Mi sandwiches and Vietnamese Pho appearing on a wide range of menus.  Pho has the opportunity to become the global comfort soup with its aroma and flavors that lure customers into the street like the call of a culinary siren.  The flavors of Asian street food vendors are capturing the attention of cutting edge chefs looking to introduce their patrons to the flavors of exotic lands.  Pho, the first restaurant in London to specialize in pho and Vietnamese street foods makes everything in-house, from high quality fresh ingredients delivered daily.


Thai and Chinese restaurants have established followings in many countries. The exotic flavors of India and the subtle flavors of Filipino home cooking are finding favor throughout the world.  Fine dining flavor is more often served up by award winning chefs in a bowl at a bar with chopsticks.


The Mall Culture

The mall culture is popular worldwide because it creates a sense of community that includes dining, entertainment and other important elements of today’s contemporary lifestyle.  Mega malls all over the world have many of the same brands and layout features.  Once inside, one of the mega malls like Panama’s Multicentro, the Dubai Mall or the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota a consumer will find many of the same restaurant brands.  Quick service restaurant chains were among the first to build iconic global brands and many of the casual dining chains are taking strong positions in world markets.


Global Economic Influences

When assessing the opportunity for foodservice in global markets, there is no standardized method, especially in many of the developing countries.  Global Business Alliance measures key economic and demographic characteristics when making their assessments.  Some of the important measures used to identify areas that are ideal opportunities for restaurant industry growth are: family size, women in the workforce, import/export activity and tourism both into and out of the country.


Regions to watch in 2013 and beyond include: Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia and South Africa.


Wellness Worldwide

The quest for life in balance is a driving force for consumers of all ages in developed countries.  There has been a shift from products that feed superficial needs for vanity to those designed to enhance vitality.  As the demand increases, there is growing scrutiny about claims made by foods with functional ingredients especially in the European Union.


The obesity epidemic is a global phenomenon not limited to developed nations with new evidence that it is spreading throughout the world and becoming a focal point of concern.



The farm to table movement is building momentum in the United States as consumers desire to be more closely connected to their food.  Although it is not yet a mainstream movement, farm dinners are much more widely available and even offered in unexpected venues.  For example, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee has a widely publicized farm to table dinner that is an immediate sell out each year.


In some countries known for a strong connection to local agriculture a new industry is emerging.  Agritourism takes a farm dinner one step further creating a new way of looking at culinary tourism that has been hot for a number of years. Now a holiday may include working in the fields, pressing olive oil and cooking dinner.  In Italy there are almost 20,000 agritourism enterprises.


Food Ethics

There is a growing interest in food with a conscience as economically secure consumers are seeking out foods that have been sustainably grown, using ethical practices that treat farmers, workers and all of those involved in bringing that food to market fairly.  One example is Theo Chocolate, working with cacao farmers in the Congo to build a better life for the growers and connect them with those who enjoy the chocolate that results from their labor.


The food democracy movement continues to build support and momentum with its belief that wholesome affordable food should be available to everyone on the planet.



Grupo Olson is a Panamanian corporation that has focused on predicting global foodservice trends since 2005.  The company advises leading food manufacturers and restaurants chains about business and culinary trends important to tomorrow’s menus in the America’s, Asia, The Middle East and Europe.  Global Business Alliance is a consultancy that has specialized in helping food companies understand emerging market opportunities and develop successful export strategies since 1995.

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