What we’ll be eating and drinking in 2020

Living Well | Wendy Hargreaves | Posted on 09 January 2020

Move over meat and matcha. These are the top food and drink trends to watch in 2020.

Booze-free happy hours and impossibly tall Japanese souffle pancakes are among this year’s top food trends, according to Yelp’s Trend Forecast Report, an annual probe of consumer reviews, searches and Insta-hype.

Yelp also predicts more purple, as bright-green matcha is pushed aside by the electric-purple ube, a yam from the Philippines used in Instagrammable dishes from ice-cream to doughnuts.

But what are our hospitality industry gurus predicting for the new decade?

Fine dining dish of roasted carrots and vegetables on wooden table

Nine of the biggest food and drink trends to watch in 2020


Breaking bread

Carbs are back in a big way, as chefs take the humble loaf of bread to new heights on restaurant menus.

“Good bread is a trend that’s been growing fast,” says Beechworth’s Michael Ryan, owner/chef at Provenance Restaurant. “I can see it getting even bigger in 2020. Chefs are getting really serious about bread, and people are prepared to pay good money for it.”

Healthy comfort food

Wellness is the hottest buzzword in the food industry, much of it led by high-end culinary spaces. Cauliflower’s comeback shows no sign of slowing down as a coveted carb alternative, from guilt-free mash to pizza bases. (More: The only spaghetti bolognese recipe you'll ever need)

“Diners will be seeking real food, focusing on the classics,” says Chris Lucas, the entrepreneur behind some of Melbourne’s hottest laneway restaurants. “People will be looking for food that makes you feel nourished and good.”

Dining out will be back on the menu

Chris, who took Melbourne by storm with Chin Chin, also predicts a slump for home-delivered food businesses like Uber Eats and Deliveroo.

“Diners will rediscover the fun of dining out again, forgoing food delivery for fun and quality,” Chris says. “It’s also about fun and not taking things too seriously, despite the horrific start to the year with the terrible fires. Australians will rally and give and rebuild.”

Giving vegan a go

Veganism is having a moment, with a huge growth in people either giving up animal products completely or giving it a try short term. And as more people choose a plant-based diet, big business is investing huge money in faux meat and fish created from a frighteningly complex list of lab-tested vegan proteins.

“Veganism has been a really strong trend, and it’s only going to get bigger,” Michael Ryan says. “There will definitely be more demand for plant-based meals.”

French Saloon owner-chef Ian Curley agrees, but he has no time for “fake plant food”.

“We need to go back to great, locally grown produce,” he says. “Real food, not all those fake chemicals.”

Backing farmers

Chefs have been talking about the provenance of their food for years, but 2020 will be the year it gets serious. And restaurants will also be looking for more sustainable options, such as serving prime cuts from retired dairy cows, which means valuable produce doesn’t go to waste.

“We talk about supporting farmers, but we have to be prepared to pay good money for what they produce,” says Ian.

Ascot Food Store owner-chef Dave Stewart says local farmers would become the real stars on cafe and restaurant menus.

“Restaurants will be all about sustainability in 2020,” Dave says. “And they can’t do that without great relationships with farmers,” he says, “Everyone will be looking for produce from local, boutique farmers. It’s time for us to go back to our roots, dealing directly with people on the land.”

More: Victoria's best regional farmers' markets

Stack of Japanese-style souffle pancakes
Person looking at computer screen with uper eats website loaded
Person holding loaf of sourdough bread cut in half

Good fish, bad fish

Dozens of Australia’s top chefs have signed up for the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Project, promising to no longer serve unsustainable seafood. Attica’s award-winning Ben Shewry is leading the charge, calling on chefs and consumers to check the rating of the fish they cook and eat. The project also offers a sustainable seafood guide to help consumers make the right choices at fishmongers and restaurants.

Waste not, want not

As food costs soar, Michael Ryan predicts a growing number of waste-free kitchens, utilising entire ingredients in a sustainable way rather than ordering pre-cut portions of “just choice bits”. He says restaurants have no choice when it comes to economising, and that means using everything and becoming more creative.

“Chefs have been trying to cut back on waste, but it’s a practice that will become the norm,” Michael says. “Food wastage has become horrific, but it’s changing fast.”

Lower-alcohol booze

Drinks with low-to-no alcohol are becoming more common in restaurants and bars, with more mocktails, juices and tea blends hitting drinks lists. The sober drinking trend is also seeing bartenders embrace booze-free beers and wines and alcohol-free spirits. Michael also offers half-pour matched wines with his degustation menu at Provenance.

Bigger bills

As the hospitality industry tackles rising food prices and higher staff costs, the price of dining out is bound to rise in 2020.

“Prices will inevitably go up, but nobody wants to be the first to do it,” says Ian Curley. “So fancy dining is finished and food is going back to basics.”

Dave Stewart agrees: “If restaurants and cafes want to survive, prices will have to go up. Restaurants will also make a return to classic, simple food. More bistro style than fine dining. (More: Where to find the best pies in regional Victoria)

“In the end, it all comes down to tasty food. That’s the best trend of all.”